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Facebook Introduces 'Satire' Tag

Meta 'Irony' Tag Still In Development

Do you sometimes watch Al Murray’s Pub Landlord and think ‘that guy’s got some good ideas’? Do you leave long self-righteous comments on newspaper websites without reading anything except the headline? Do you use the phrase ‘I’ll tell you what this country needs…’ multiple times daily? Then Facebook is rolling out a new feature which may interest you.

Reacting to user data which suggests that people are incapable of telling the difference between parody and reality, or perhaps of reading at all, the social media giant is testing the introduction of a ‘[Satire]’ tag to be attached to satirical articles linked to their site, which will sadly not include this one.

Sources such as The Onion and the Daily Mash are popular across social media for their amusing and often incisive parodic takes on current events. The problem arises when people, and even certain (perhaps chronically understaffed) real news agencies, take stories like ‘Everyone In Middle East Given Own Country In 317,000,000 State Solution’ and ‘British Royal Family Places Queen Elizabeth In Nursing Home’ as fact.

To this end Facebook’s new feature will hopefully save some users the embarrassment of having their inability to critically assess a 750 word article displayed for all their friends to see. It will also neatly sidestep the oft-discussed issue of social media damaging people’s attention spans by removing the need for any attention at all.

There is a substantial history of satirical news stories being taken seriously. Last year the Washington Post picked up a story by humour site the Daily Currant that Sarah Palin was joining the al-Jazeera news network, and in 2012 a Chinese newspaper reported an Onion piece which declared Kim Jong-un the sexiest man alive.

So far the feature is being trialled in limited areas, and it is unknown if and when this will become a site-wide option. Sure to be opposed to the move is the website Literally Unbelievable, which gathers screenshots of people on Facebook taking Onion articles seriously.

The tag only seems to appear in the ‘related articles’ box – if you follow a link to an article on an external site, when you return to Facebook you will be shown three similar articles under the original. It is only these which have been seen with the satire tag, meaning that you have to at least view the original article in order to be told that it’s meant to be funny.

This may partly be a move to appease users still upset by Facebook’s mass news feed manipulation revealed earlier this year, to get back some sense of the timeline as a place where people can feel confident in the content they view and post. Others may see it as a continuation of that slippery slope, a step on the path towards Facebook exercising a broader editorial remit over even off-site material.

There’s no word yet on whether this feature is going to become a permanent feature, but in the words of Jonathan Swift: ‘Satire is a sort of glass, wherein the beholders do generally discover everybody’s faces but their own.’ The necessity of this new development certainly tells us as much as we may need to know about Facebook’s users as it does about the site itself.

Douglas is an English Literature graduate who has written about everything from music to food to theatre, now a content creator for Social Media Frontiers. No topic too large or too small. Follow him @DouglasAtSMF.

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Facebook Introduces 'Satire' Tag Reviewed by Anonymous on Tuesday, August 19, 2014 Rating: 5
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