The social network wants to ensure that when a user shares a link to a comedy news article everyone who clicks through is in on the joke.'
Many web users of a certain age -- i.e. those old enough to remember whan a phone was used exclusively for making voice calls -- despise emoticons, but they provide a very pertinent service in a world where the majority of our communication is now text-based.
A text message followed by a yellow, winking face makes it clear that the message is a joke, or not to be taken seriously. Likewise, receiving LOL as a response to something you've just said makes it clear that it was recognized as a joke.
However, things are not so clear when it comes to sharing links to articles on Facebook, particularly if the article in question originated on The Onion or another well-known satirical site. In fact, taking the contents of a shared Onion article as literal is so common that there's a website, called Literally Unbelievable, dedicated to capturing misinformed comments to misunderstood articles across Facebook.
To help users avoid making an appearance on Literally Unbelievable, Facebook is currently testing a ‘satire' tag "because we received feedback that people wanted a clearer way to distinguish satirical articles from others," a spokesperson told Ars Technica.
If a link to a satirical article is posted or shared, it won't be tagged. However, if you click on the link and read the piece, returning to your newsfeed will offer a list of related articles that are all clearly labeled as ‘satire'.
As well as turning social media users into the unwitting butts of jokes, The Onion's ability to fool the uninitiated has led to, among other things, two Bangladeshi newspapers running articles claiming that Neil Armstrong had confessed to the Apollo moon landings' being nothing more than an elaborate hoax.