In a move that's fit for publication on The Onion, Facebook has begun testing a new [Satire] tag on links to The Onion's webpage. This new feature seeks to spell out humorous posts for Facebook users, since they've been duped and outraged by satirical publications in the past. In a statement issued to The Huffington Post by Facebook, the social media giant claims they 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." While this certainly might cut down on the number of people becoming outraged by fake news, one has to wonder – why should we rely on Facebook to spoon feed us content?
The Brilliant History of Online Satire
It seems that The Onion is the primary target of Facebook's [Satire] tag. This publication, founded in Wisconsin in 1988, has a long reputation for being the troublemakers of journalism. The Onion News Network is infamous for hilarious fake-news classics like "98 Homosexual-Recruitment Drive Nearing Goal," and "Nation's Soccer Fan Becoming Insufferable." Both of these articles have been famously mistaken as non-satirical news, leading to public embarrassment by those who didn't get the joke. The satire on The Onion has received so much critical acclaim, it made the leap from the Internet to television in 2011, with features appearing on IFC and Comedy Central.
Schadenfreude of Outrage
Despite The Onion's popularity, this publication still manages to fly under the radar and dupe everyday readers, high-profile celebrities, and even other news publications. It seems as if The Onion's reputation is still unknown by many, and hilarity ensures. If anything, Facebook's [Satire] posts could derive us of the schadenfreude that occurs when people take these stories seriously. For example, a television reporter on MSNBC erroneously presented fake statistics pulled from The Onion's "study" titled, "58 Percent of U.S. Exercise Televised." It can be an incredibly awkward moment in your journalism career to discover that you've just quoted satire as fact. But isn't flying under the radar and making people question reality some of the goals of satire?
Journalists aren't the only ones who publicly fall for Onion articles. A blog called "Literally Unbelievable" catalogs the chaos that ensues when average Facebook users take these articles seriously. Don't worry, the users' names and faces have been blurred out to protect the identities of the innocent. After reading these responses, you'll soon realize how satire misunderstandings can lead to ruined friendships and immense public embarrassment. However, one could argue that these posts serve as a great reminder to fact check before you respond, as journalist and as social media users.
Facebook's meddling [Satire] tag could ruin the fun for fans of The Onion and other popular fake news networks. The fact that Facebook must spell satire out for users doesn't bode well for the future of linked content. Just how much transparency will this social media platform demand through its interface updates? And how much responsibility should fall on readers who don't diligently confirm the stories that they're commenting on? Unfortunately, it looks like the joke is still on us.