Facebook is prompting some users to read articles before sharing them

Most of us have seen an article shared by a Facebook friend and wondered, “Did they even read this?”. But the social network is testing a feature borrowed from Twitter that could aid in the battle against misinformation by notifying users who try to share articles they haven’t even opened.

A percentage of Facebook’s 2.6 billion monthly active users are guilty of sharing articles based on the headlines alone, often alongside an unrelated comment. The service hopes to dissuade this practice using a pop-up that states, “You are about to share an article without opening it.”

Facebook tries to encourage people to actually check the information they are sharing by adding: “Sharing articles without reading them may mean missing key facts.” Users aren’t blocked from sharing the unread piece; the prompt offers the options of opening an article or continuing to share it.

Facebook describes the feature as “testing a way to promote more informed sharing of news articles.” Hopefully, the pop-up will make at least some users think twice before hitting that share button.

The biggest surprise here is that Facebook never introduced this earlier. Rival social network Twitter first tested an identical prompt in July last year “To help promote informed discussion.” It launched in full last September.

Social networks must tread a fine line when it comes to clamping down on fake news without being accused of censorship, but this form of self-policing puts the onus on the user. Sadly, how much difference the prompt will make to Facebook’s misinformation problem will likely be negligible.

In other Facebook news, we recently heard that Facebook Messenger is now the third of the company’s properties to pass the five billion downloads milestone.