This is not a [joke]

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18 August 2014 | 0

Niall Kitson portraitI say, I say, I say… Knock, knock… An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scots man walk into a bar. Did you hear the one about the ‘x’ and the ‘y’… Nothing good comes of framing devices like these but when heard you know what you’re getting: a boorish jibe, a terrible pun, a bit of politically incorrect slapstick, tick as appropriate. You’re in on the joke.

Less obvious – and all the more fun because of it – are the occasional ‘stories’ gleaned from the pages of satirical website The Onion and reported as fact in mainstream news outlets. Locally, it’s fun reading anything on Waterford Whispers News comments section where at least one poster has to be reminded they’re not reading a hard hitting piece of investigative journalism.

Well Facebook has come up with a way to make sure this outrage is wiped form the Internet with a tag for content pointing out where a joke is intended – possibly so everyone can enjoy it equally. According to a report in Ars Technica, articles from the Onion will appear with the tag [satire] beside the headline in people’s news feeds.

This should offset any confusion that may exist should people not realise the story is from The Onion, that they have to visit “America’s Finest News Source” to discover that artificial tumours and safety tips for ‘unarmed black teens’ aren’t what they seem.

How this works in practice is that if a story from The Onion – the only site on trial for now – appears in your news feed, the related stories panel beneath are tagged [satire].

Given that many commenters have been caught out for only reading the headline and strapline of a news piece before contributing to the comments below this is unlikely to be much of a game changer. US public radio network NPR poked fun at the lack of close reading of its news stories when it posted a story with the headline ‘Why doesn’t America read anymore?’ and a single paragraph clearly explaining the prank. Some 10,000 shortsighted and incensed Facebook users vented their frustration, while 10,000 more astute readers shared the carnage to their friends.

The tag is still in the trial stages and has come about as a result of user feedback, presumably from people who have been stung before or have seen a loved one make a fool of themselves in a public forum and or been published on Literally Unbelieveable.

Facebook would have you believe all this cruel jibing of folks too dim to discern fantasy from reality is cruel and unusual. They have a point and I look forward to this age of corporate-vetted organised fun. [Satire].

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