Years after opening a pandora’s box of bad behavior, social media companies are trying to find subtle ways to reshape the way people use their platforms.
Following Twitter’s lead, Facebook is trying a new feature designed to encourage users to read a link before sharing it. The test will reach 6% of Facebook’s Android users globally as part of a phased rollout that aims to encourage “informed sharing” of news on the platform.
Users can still easily click to share a given story, but the idea is that by adding friction to the experience, people could rethink their original impulses to share the kind of inflammatory content that currently dominates the platform. .
Twitter introduced prompts urging users to read a link before retweeting it last June, and the company quickly found the testing feature to be effective, expanding it to more users.
Facebook started trying other prompts like this last year. Last June, the company rolled out pop-up messages to warn users before sharing content older than 90 days in an effort to reduce deceptive stories taken out of their original context.
At the time, Facebook said it was looking at other pop-up prompts to reduce certain types of misinformation. A few months later, Facebook rolled out similar pop-up messages indicating the date and source of all the links they shared related to COVID-19.
The strategy demonstrates Facebook’s preference for a passive strategy of keeping people away from disinformation and turning to its own verified resources on topical issues like COVID-19 and the 2020 election.
While the jury is still out on what impact this kind of gentle behavioral shaping can have on the epidemic of disinformation, Twitter and Facebook have also explored prompts that discourage users from posting abusive comments.
Pop-up messages that make users feel that their bad behavior is being observed may be those where more automated moderation is directed on social platforms. While users would likely be much better served by social media companies ditching their misinformation and abused existing platforms and more thoughtfully rebuilding them from scratch, little behavioral nudges will have to do the trick.