The case for the Facebook ‘satire’ tag


Know anyone who’s fallen for a story on The Onion? Apparently Facebook does.

Facebook revealed this week that it’s planning to test a “satire” tag in people’s newsfeeds. You know, so people can tell real news from the fake kind. 

Do we really need to be told what the difference is? Apparently so, according to the good folks at Science of Us, who checked with the experts.

Dannagal Young, associate professor of communication at the University of Delaware, told Science of Us’s Melissa Dahl that people fall for fake news on places like Facebook and Twitter because they see isolated bits of information—just a headline or a brief description—without any other information.

A famous spoof site like The Onion is enough of a flag for many readers — they are “consistently ironic.” But even then, irony can be read the wrong way:

“Think about the drama over [Stephen] Colbert’s ‘ching-chong ding-dong’ joke,” she continued. “That joke, in its original context, was ironic satire, juxtaposing the response of the Redskins’ owner with an equally offensive and laughably racist gesture made by Colbert.  When Comedy Central tweeted it, without context, people were robbed of their ability to integrate non-verbal and context cues into their processing of the joke … and they got pissed off. At Colbert. For being racist. Ahhhh, the irony!” 

Dahl and Young take a fascinating dive through how we humans process humor and irony. You can take a look at the full post here.

Via Science of Us

Image of Facebook page via Shutterstock

Nidhi Subbaraman writes about science and research. Email her at
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