Facebook adds 'satire' tag. Can you tell when a news story is fake?

Facebook has begun marking certain fake news stories with a 'satire' tag so users can more easily determine between fake and real news. 

Dado Ruvic/Reuters
A Facebook logo on an iPad is reflected among source code on the LCD screen of a computer, in this photo illustration.

Do you mainly get your news from Facebook? If so, can you tell when a story is real and when it's fake? 

Apparently, Facebook doesn't think that distinction is easy to make, which is why for the past month it's been testing out a new feature that labels fake news stories with a "Satire" tag, according to Ars Technica. Examples include stories from the satirical news site The Onion

In a statement to the press, Facebook said the test is meant to appease users who have apparently complained that they can't always tell the difference between what's real and what's not. 

"We are running a small test which shows the text '[Satire]' in front of links to satirical articles in the related articles unit in News Feed. This is because we received feedback that people wanted a clearer way to distinguish satirical articles from others in these units," said a Facebook representative. 

The 'Satire' label does not appear on articles when they initially pop up in a news feed. Rather, that label appears only under the 'Related Articles' tab once you've clicked on a satirical article and then returned to your news feed and have been given a list of three related stories. In the case of an Onion article, for example, should another Onion story come up in the 'Related' category, it would be marked as 'Satire.' The 'Satire' label appears in brackets before the article headline.

However, the 'Satire' tag disappears if you save an article to read at a later time. Any articles posted to The Onion's official Facebook page are not tagged either. Some satirical sites do not receive tags at all. For example, articles from The Onion's new site Clickhole, designed to spoof Buzzfeed, are also not tagged, according to Ars Technica. 

While The Onion is a well-known publication founded in 1988, this new tag could help Facebook users discerning the fake content of lesser-known satirical sites. For example, last year the fake news blog The Daily Currant reported that the former Republican vice presidential running mate Sarah Palin would be joining Al Jazeera America as a commentator and host. Though false, the story was picked up and published as real by The Washington Post, which subsequently had to issue a story correction. 

There's even a blog called Literally Unbelievable that is dedicated to showcasing instances in which Facebook users are fooled into believing the fake news they see on their news feeds. 

Facebook itself has also come under scrutiny for its practices of pushing related articles on readers. Earlier this year, Facebook users clicking on a news link about Michelle Obama's encounter with a 10-year-old girl whose father was out of work, were greeted with related articles that contained salacious content about the president and the first lady. 

In response, Facebook explained that these were the results of algorithms that looked for key words and the popularity of articles on a certain topic when recommending articles to readers. This drew strong criticism, particularly from the journalism community. And it is concerning when such a large purveyor of news makes no effort to critique or vet its content, Emily Bell, director of Columbia Journalism School’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism, told The Boston Globe in May

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.