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Facebook is testing a downvote function for flagging and dealing with bad content

The ongoing Facebook content debate has been a rather messy and multi-faceted one, with plenty of implications and potential social repercussions extending far beyond the website itself. Regardless of whether we approve or not, Facebook has understandably been trying to absolve and distance itself from the ongoing debates regarding post-truth, fake news and other sticky issues of the day. Avoidance, denial and pleading bystander, however, are not very prospective strategies in the long run.

Enter the new “downvote” button – the latest and likely not the last in the company’s efforts to mitigate the crisis. It’s a new beta feature, currently undergoing testing on around 5% of English-speaking, US Android users of the platform. It is an extra button that appears next to the Like and reply buttons on certain content on the platform. Hitting it reveals three options for flagging said content as either Offensive, Misleading, or Off-Topic. The idea here, being that Facebook can track these reports and flag posts and even users accordingly.

It is somewhat of an update over the current reporting system, but that isn’t as important as a few other aspects of the feature. First up, Facebook is once again making it abundantly clear that this is not a “dislike button”. The social giant has already made its stance on the whole Reddit-style rating system on numerous occasions, claiming that all users really needed was the ability to react differently to information. Hence, the still relatively new reaction emojis.

I now have #FacebookDownvote on sponsored posts in my feed! #smm #socialmediamarketing #socialmedia #digitalmarketing pic.twitter.com/BKZyS25ZEZ

Christina Hudler (@hudlersocial) February 8, 2018

Facebook also claims that it already has systems in place that can handle annoying ad and “clickbaiting”, as well as vote baiting, react baiting and share baiting content on its own pretty well. The “downvote” button seems to be aimed at crowdsourcing complaints to identify objectively false or inappropriately placed and out of context content.

In the “post-truth” era, letting users vote on the level of accuracy, relevance or offensiveness of a certain statement or information is an imperfect solution for an imperfect world. It gets rid of none of the bias involved in the process. At least, as some form of mitigation, it seems that currently Facebook is only trying the button out on comments, on public Page posts. Groups posts or those submitted by individuals currently seem to be left out of the new system. This at least implies that the end goal is battling disinformation.

We won’t dive any further into the issue as it really is a complicated one, but we would love to hear your two cents on the matter. Do you think the “downvote” button is a proper way of dealing with issues and what issues is Facebook even targeting to begin with? Do you see it working? Tell us in the comments.

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