Facebook wants you to read before you share

Facebook rolls out a new feature that encourages users to read an article before sharing it.

May 12, 2021

Listen up, aunts and uncles of the world: Your indiscriminate posting of random stuff on Facebook is about to hit a roadblock.

The social network is testing a pop-up that will remind people they might want to actually read something before they tell all their friends and families.

Sometimes not sharing is caring

If someone tries to share an article they haven’t opened, the pop-up will warn them they might be “missing key facts.” They can then choose to open the article or share it anyhow. A Facebook spokesperson told the Verge the pilot will start with 6% of Android users.

Facebook announced the rollout on Monday via Twitter, where a similar function has been in effect since last June. In September 2020, Twitter said people opened articles 40% more often after seeing its pop-up.

How much don’t people read?

  • A 2016 study from Columbia University and the French National Institute found 59% of Twitter links were shared without a click, meaning the user likely just read the headline — which rarely tells a full story.
  • The study was inspired by The Science Post, a satire site that posted the headline “Study: 70% of Facebook users only read the headline of science stories before commenting.” The article contained only placeholder text, but still got ~46k shares, according to the Washington Post.
  • In 2019, Annie Reneau wrote a story about domestic terrorism for Upworthy, but a glitch sent the Facebook post to a dead link. It racked up thousands of shares and 2k+ comments from people who had not — who could not — read the article. Oof.

So, either your uncle posts better links… or the pop-ups create enough friction to lead to less sharing. Win, win.

(The writer was a contractor at Facebook in 2019.)

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