prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Hello! It’s a Joke!

Posted by prof e on August 18, 2014

According to a report from Mashable, Facebook is considering adding a “satire” tag to links to stories from fake news sites, e.g. The Onion and The Daily Currant. Apparently the move is a response to requests from Facebook users who want help identifying fake news and distinguishing it from real news. Somewhat ironically, the staff of the Washington Post newspaper could also use a little help. Politico reported that a WP reporter was duped by a fake news report about Sarah Palin joining Al Jazeera.

I have witnessed, on several occasions, Facebook friends re-posting outrageous stories from fake news sites, and on one occasion (that I know of), I’ve done it myself. So I’m not suggesting that the idea of a “satire” tag is unnecessary or silly. However, let’s not assume that the satire tag will somehow eliminate the need for critical thinking on the part of media consumers. Any time that you off-load responsibility for critical thinking on someone (or some algorithm), you risk becoming a victim of that person’s (or algorithm’s) biases.

And there’s another potential downside. If the satire tag works we may have fewer opportunities to have a laugh at the expense of those who believe fake news is real, e.g. the website Literally Unbelievable. Here’s an example from their website:

TheOnionSatire

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