I was raised with the notion that if you didn’t have something nice to say, you simply kept quiet. It’s a pretty easy concept, and one that’s got me through life relatively conflict free.
Facebook launched back in 2004, with the famous ‘like’ button appearing in our timelines late 2009. We were happy with this simple system. Agree with, or appreciate what you were reading? Click the like button. Didn’t like what you saw, click nothing and scroll on by to the next amusing picture of a cat.
Users were pretty happy with this, though due to pressure from some, Facebook rolled out Reactions in 2016, giving us ‘Love’, ‘Ha ha’, ‘Sad’, ‘Wow’, and ‘Angry’, the latter being a good way to disagree with a sentiment, without it being a true dislike button.
This works. We’re all happy with the arrangement. Despite what people might think, we don’t need a dislike, or down vote button. If something is truly wrong, or inappropriate, it can just be reported.
So why, is Facebook testing a down vote button?
They claim the trial, currently limited to a small number of US users, is for pages, and is being used to monitor offensive content or comments. We already have hide and report options, so why the need for this?
Although they claim it’s only for pages at this stage, I can see a potential roll out to personal accounts down the line. It could help Facebook understand who is producing good, meaningful content, but transversely, it leaves the platform wide open to targeted abuse at some of it’s most vulnerable users – and it’s this that worries me the most.
A 2017 Pew Research survey revealed 4 in 10 Americans have personally experienced online harassment. I firmly believe this number would rise if the biggest social media platform gave users an easy way to give the perception of negativity.
Trolling is already rife on the platform, and the ability to down vote, or dislike posts, without any monitoring, could easily hide or remove some of the platform’s best content.
It’s a long way off, but if Mark Z’s intentions truly are ethical, I hope that he rethinks a negative button for Facebook. Things work the way they are.