The great Robin Williams passed away last week. The world was in shock and it filled up Facebook and Twitter feeds worldwide. Unfortunately this time it was for real. You see, on social media Williams had actually died at least 6 other times over the years. Hashtags like #RIPRobinWilliams first started surfacing in 2011. But Williams wasn’t dead. Williams wasn’t alone many other celebrities deaths have been faked on Facebook and Twitter.
It’s not just deaths though. Hoax and satire stories are a permanent fixture across social networks. Satirical news is what keeps The Onion alive and kicking. One hop over to snopes.com and you’ll see some very outlandish stories that people actually believed. For instance, just a few weeks ago a story circulated on Facebook that Coke was recalling 2 million bottles with the name Michael on them. This story was completely false.
While some hoax and satire stories can be hard to identify as true or false, The Onion typically nails it with satirical stories that appear to look like real news stories.
This story, with the headline, GlaxoSmithKline Releases New Drug To Treat People Who Just Feel Sort Of Weird sometimes, is from The Onion and total satire, on Facebook though, it was treated like gospel.
Stories like these are the reason Facebook is starting to tag stories from The Onion as satire, reports ArsTechnica.
Right now the satire tag appears in brackets and only in a related articles box. Facebook could decide to eventually tag all of The Onion links as satire along with empirenews and several other news sites.
ArsTechnica describes how the tagging currently works:
“The major catch to this auto-tagging is that it only appears in a “related articles” box. Here’s how it works: If a friend posts an Onion link to his or her Facebook feed, click on it for a laugh. Once you’re done at The Onion and come back to your desktop or laptop browser, Facebook will have generated three related articles in a box directly below whatever you’d clicked on. In the case of an Onion link, that box will usually contain at least one article from the same site, only that article’s headline will begin with the word “satire” in brackets. As of press time, we were able to duplicate this result on three different computers from different accounts, one of which is shown above.”
Right now you may be scratching your head thinking about why Facebook would even need to tag something like this. But as Facebook’s demographics continue to shift to an older user it will completely make sense. You are probably 100% aware that your mom totally believes that the email she sent you will help her get a million dollars from Microsoft.