Facebook adds speed bump to slow down Covid-19 post virality

With its product decisions, Facebook is admitting the share button can do more harm than good.

Facebook is making people pause before they share links with Covid-19 related information.

The company is adding an interstitial that will make people stop and review context about links with Covid-19 information before they share it. The move adds much-needed friction into a process that has helped Covid-19 misinformation go viral on Facebook.

“Before re-sharing, you’ll see links' source and date,” David Gillis, a Facebook product design director, said on Twitter. “We hope this helps people get more context at a time and on topic that is rapidly evolving.”

The move amounts to a tacit admission from Facebook that the Share button — which allows people to pass along information without a second thought — is causing Covid-19 misinformation to spread too fast on its platform. Links from “credible health authorities” like the WHO, will not have these interstitials, Facebook said in a blog post.

Facebook’s initiative to add "informative friction,” as Gillis described it, is part of a broad rethinking of the buttons that spread information on social media. Twitter is currently running a test asking people if they want to click the link in a tweet before retweeting. Whatsapp has limited forwards.

Last Thursday, Big Technology argued the discussion about misinformation and outrage should focus on the systems that make these posts go viral on social media. (It’s a matter of focusing on The Machine vs. its Outputs.)

In the story, MIT professor David Rand suggested Facebook work to slow down the spread. “I'd be in favor of testing an intervention where anytime anyone clicks Share for anything related to Covid-19, they are then asked how accurate they think the headline is, and then re-asked if they still want to share it,” he said.

One week later, Facebook is implementing a version of Rand’s suggestion.