Facebook is now testing a downvote button on a limited set of public Page post comment reels. Facebook does with signals about problematic comments could raise new questions about censorship, and its role as a news editor and media company.
Facebook is not testing a “dislike” button. Instead, it’s testing a button that lets people express their dislike for comments
Facebook has long faced an issue over how best to let people express less-than-positive feelings about people’s posts and comments.
That’s the official line from Facebook after the company was spotted testing the new feature on some people’s accounts on Thursday.
Not-a-dislike button lets people “downvote” comments on public posts, much as they can collaboratively push comments down the list on a Reddit thread.
“We are not testing a dislike button. We are exploring a feature for people to give us feedback about comments on public page posts. This is running for a small set of people in the U.S. only,” Facebook told the publication.
When tapped, the downvote button hides a comment, and gives users additional reporting options like “Offensive”, “Misleading”, and “Off Topic”. Those could help Facebook figure out if the comment is objectionable, a form of “fake news”, or just irrelevant. Facebook already has a “Hide” button for comments, but it’s usually hidden behind the drop-down arrow on comments rather than immediately clickable.
A couple years ago, it said it was working on a “dislike” button that didn’t encourage negativity. This eventually manifested in the form of reaction buttons that let people express sadness and anger—but not dislike. Instead, the reactions are all intended to show sympathy with a post or comment.
According to Facebook, this is a short-term test that doesn’t affect the ranking of the comment, post, or Page. It’s designed as a way to give feedback to Facebook, not the commenter, and there will be no publicly visible count of how many downvotes a comment gets. The test is running for 5% of Android users in the U.S. with language set to English. The downvote button only appears on public Page posts, not on posts by Groups, public figures or users.
The ability for people to downvote comments may make it easier for people and communities on Facebook to police trolling and hate speech. On the other hand, it could also be used as a trolling tool, if people organize the mass downranking of a particular comment for malicious purposes.
The new downvote button is the closest Facebook has come to actually giving people a dislike button. Downvoting was popularized on Reddit for crowd source comment ranking.