Social media can be a source of toxic fake news meant to polarize users and manipulate public opinion. Facebook is at the heart of the problem as the world’s largest social network. The phenomenon was best observed during the 2016 US Presidential elections when the platform was used to target voters with misleading content. Facebook ultimately admitted that Russia meddled with the election and started taking steps to prevent similar events. But Facebook was hardly able to contain the fake news that assaulted its services in the years that followed.
Misleading content still spread with ease on its platforms, including Facebook and its messaging apps, escalating during the first year of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Conspiracy theories and fake news about the new illness, treatments, and vaccines circulated online with ease. Facebook again attempted to limit the spread of COVID-19 misinformation. Later, Mark Zuckerberg banned Donald Trump on Facebook and Instagram in the aftermath of the US Capitol riots — before that, Facebook removed misleading content from the former president or labeled the posts that violated its policies. That ban was upheld recently.
Going forward, Facebook might implement another helpful feature that might curb the sharing of misleading information on its platforms. Facebook will show prompts advising people to read the news articles they’re about to share in full before actually sharing them with their contacts.
Facebook announced the new feature on Monday, confirming to Recode that about 6% of its global users on Android will see the new prompts. The measure is meant to convince people to read article in full before sharing it, to get access to more context rather than just the story’s headline.
Starting today, we’re testing a way to promote more informed sharing of news articles. If you go to share a news article link you haven’t opened, we’ll show a prompt encouraging you to open it and read it, before sharing it with others. pic.twitter.com/brlMnlg6Qg
— Facebook Newsroom (@fbnewsroom) May 10, 2021
Facebook took to Twitter to highlight the new prompts that will appear to users who share content without reading news articles. “You’re about to share this article without opening it. Sharing articles without reading them may mean missing key facts,” the prompt reads.
Users will be given two options inside the prompt: “Open Article” and “Continue Sharing,” as seen in the image:
This might be enough for some people to read news stories before sharing them online. But Facebook users will not be required to access the articles. They can still go forward with sharing the post without reading it. Facebook and other social networks can’t force users to reading content before sharing it with others.
Still, the feature might be beneficial in the long run, as it’ll still deliver the core message that some Facebook users have not yet grasped. It’s essential to get the full context of a news story. Even if people choose to continue sharing without reading, they’ll know the same prompt will reappear every time they share content without first clicking on the story. The simple way to avoid the nuisance is to check out the full article.
It’s unclear, however, whether the feature will be rolled out to all Facebook users after the initial test or how long it’ll take for Facebook to bring it to iPhone and desktop. Twitter tested a similar feature in June last year and then rolled it to all users in September.