Facebook is awash with election misinformation. And so, two days after the U.S. presidential election, it has decided to add “friction” to its spread.
So reports the New York Times, which notes that Facebook is considering the bold action of requiring “an additional click or two — before people can share posts and other content.” That’s right folks, democracy is saved because the kind of people who believe in baseless conspiracy theories like #SharpieGate and QAnon will surely be deterred by having to click a “share” button twice instead of once.
The announcement, leaked to the New York Times by “two people with knowledge of the matter,” appears to be Facebook’s way of trying to get a handle on the beast it helped unleash on the world. And while it’s nice that Facebook is considering taking this step of closing the barn door, it’s hard not to think that the horse escaped years ago.
Twitter, for its part, added some friction of its own — even using that specific word — weeks ago. In early October the company altered the way retweets work on its platform, so that if you hit the retweet button you are first brought to the quote tweet field.
“Though this adds some extra friction for those who simply want to Retweet, we hope it will encourage everyone to not only consider why they are amplifying a Tweet, but also increase the likelihood that people add their own thoughts, reactions and perspectives to the conversation,” read an Oct. 9 blog post announcing the change.
Apparently, the New York Times reports, another step Facebook is considering is to “demote content on the News Feed if it contains election-related misinformation[.]”
Why Facebook waited until after the election — when Donald Trump has been straight up lying about non-existent mail-in ballot fraud for some time — to take these measures is as unclear as it is unsurprising.
According to the Times, Facebook could make the “friction” change today. Though, again, we don’t even know what that actually means so let’s stop short of actually crediting the company with doing anything.
We reached out to Facebook to confirm the Times’ reporting, get details on Facebook’s proposed changes, and to determine when it may be implementing the changes and for how long. We received no immediate response.
Perhaps, now that Trump is poised to lose the presidential election (although, as of the time of this writing, states like Pennsylvania and Georgia remain uncalled), Facebook realized it should probably do something about the mess it has helped spread for years.
It’s certainly too little. Time will tell if it’s also too late.