Facebook will begin prompting some users to read an article before they share it with their friends. Twitter added a similar feature a year ago in hopes that it would slow the spread of misinformation by encouraging people to think twice before sharing.
Users can still share articles without reading them, so who knows if Facebook’s update will have much impact.
Think twice — "You're about to share this article without opening it," the prompt says. "Sharing articles without reading them may mean missing key facts." Facts that could add important context. Headlines often leave a lot to be desired — a recent headline from CBS News, for example, read “Distracted nurse gives woman 6 doses of COVID vaccine in a single shot.” That alone might scare someone out of getting vaccinated, even though the article goes on to say the woman was fine.
Twitter has indicated that its product changes — including labels and article prompts — have been effective at slowing the spread of misinformation. Last year it said its data found that people open articles 40 percent more often after seeing the prompt, and some people who wanted to retweet an article ended up changing their minds after opening it. Following the presidential election, Twitter found that the spread of misinformation was slowed because overall tweeting was reduced thanks to added friction and labeling.
Those changes show how the way platforms are designed have a clear influence on the spread of misinformation. Users don’t think before they share, and then people see false information so frequently they start to assume it’s true.