It’s happened to all of us. We see a friend or relative share a seemingly topical bit of news with a clicky headline on Facebook, only to open the link and find out it was written three years ago and contains outdated information. Sighs.
Thankfully, that should soon happen a lot less. Starting today, Facebook is rolling out a feature that will warn users before they share an article over 90 days old. You’ll see the notification if you click the share button on an old article, but it’s not clear if it works with simply copying and pasting a link. Of course, sometimes old news is relevant, so you can still share the piece if you’d like after clicking through the warning.
Facebook says that “the timeliness of an article is an important piece of context that helps people decide what to read, trust and share” and that publishers have been concerned over old news misconstruing current events. After all, just think of all the headlines you read and ignore; even if you never click through on an article, your perception of current events are likely colored by what you see people sharing on their feeds. And as a reporter, it’s long been clear that many readers never bother to read bylines, let alone dates. Some publishers have even begun placing their own labels on older pieces just to make the context clear.
Facebook is considering other types of warning labels too, such as providing additional context about articles related to COVID-19, including background on the source of the link and a link to its COVID-19 Information Center for more reliable health information.
Twitter recently piloted a feature that would warn people before sharing an article they haven’t, you know, actually read. Along with Facebook’s update today, it’s nice to see the social media giants taking a more proactive approach to fighting disinformation on their platforms — especially as the US’ general election rapidly approaches.