Facebook has confirmed that it’s testing a “downvote” feature for the comment sections of posts on Facebook Pages.

Not to be confused with a dislike button, this new feature is designed as a way for users to notify Facebook of comments that may violate community guidelines through false, offensive or inappropriate behavior.

In an interview with TechCrunch, Facebook stated that “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.”

When tapped, the downvote feature allows a user to hide the comment and allows for it to be reported as “offensive, misleading or off-topic.”

In the short-term the downvote button won’t affect a comment’s ranking, but will notify Facebook to investigate as to whether the comment in question needs to be removed depending on its violation.

Testing of the feature has been introduced in several countries and approximately 5 percent of Android users in the United States.

Implications of the downvote button

For several years many users have requested the ability to dislike comments like Reddit offers, but as stated by Mark Zuckerberg in 2015:

“We didn’t want to just build a Dislike button because we don’t want to turn Facebook into a forum where people are voting up or down on people’s posts. That doesn’t seem like the kind of community we want to create.”

Facebook already ranks comments based on replies and likes in its algorithm, making a dislike button unnecessary alongside already available reaction buttons on posts.

The implementation of a downvote button stems from the Facebook’s new focus toward providing quality content among friends and family.

While Zuckerberg stated that they expected a decrease in overall time spent on the site due to the new algorithm changes, Facebook reported a loss of 700,000 daily users in North America, marking the first time the platform has actually seen a drop in traffic.


Personal thoughts on the downvote feature

It’s too early to say what effect the downvote feature will have on a user’s overall experience, but it may necessitate an allocation of real people to monitor what’s being flagged instead of relying on machine-learning to flag and remove content.

As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts and podcasts, relying too heavily on machine-learning can be detrimental to the overall user experience if it isn’t monitored.

I understand the importance of utilizing AI to oversee a huge platform with billions of monthly users, but I don’t feel as though we’ve reached a point to where AI is intelligent-enough to not be manipulated by savvy users.

YouTube is currently experiencing this problem as videos are being falsely flagged and content creators are unable to remove strikes from their channels or reapply monetization that was removed from their videos to incorrectly violated community guidelines. There isn’t enough of a human support system in place to support content creators in their efforts and I foresee the same issue occurring on Facebook with Pages.

In terms of what might happen with the downvote button, there may be a drop off in engagement on Page posts due to comments being flagged. It may also promote more thoughtful comments and interactions, but that seems to be the main purpose of a Facebook Group.

Facebook is in development of a “Time Well Spent” feature to promote more meaningful engagement and time spent on the platform.

It’s too early to say what the long-term effects of the new Facebook algorithm and Zuckerberg’s vision for the platform, but the journey that lies ahead for Facebook in 2018 will be anything but stagnant.