Facebook could be soon be making the biggest change to its comments section in years, and in the process also introduce a feature that it had categorically said would never grace its platform.
Facebook is testing out a Reddit-style upvote-downvote system for comments, OfficeChai has discovered. On some posts, Facebook now shows a message titled “Support better comments.” “Support comments that are thoughtful and civil and demote ones that are uncivil or irrelevant,” says Facebook. The actual comments have up and down arrows next to them, and the net scores are highlighted. Clicking the upvote arrow raises the score of the comment by 1; clicking the downvote arrow reduces the score of the comment by 1.
It’s not yet clear how Facebook plans to use these comment scores, but it’s likely that it could use them to determine the order in which the comments appear beneath a post. In their current avatar, Facebook seems to see the upvotes-downvotes mechanism to be in conjunction with its current 6 emojis — users can use the usual reacts on comments, as well as respond with the upvotes and downvotes.
The upvotes and downvotes feature, if it does get a site-wide release, will fulfill a longstanding demand of some Facebook users — the presence of a “”dislike” button. Facebook has had its now-ubiquitous “like” button for a while, but several people had pointed out that there was no equivalent way for users to express their displeasure. Facebook, for its part, had resisted the demands for a dislike button.
“The like button is really valuable because it’s a way for you to very quickly express a positive emotion or sentiment when someone puts themselves out there and shares something,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg had said in 2016. “Some people have asked for a dislike button because they want to be able to say, “That thing isn’t good.” That’s not something that we think is good. We’re not going to build that, and I don’t think there needs to be a voting mechanism on Facebook about whether posts are good or bad. I don’t think that’s socially very valuable or good for the community to help people share the important moments in their lives,” he’d added.
But it appears that Facebook is considering relenting on something that it until recently felt was neither valuable nor good for the community. While there is still no explicit dislike button, Facebook is trying out the option of including a downvote, which will essentially serve the same purpose. Comments with large negative scores will be deemed to have been largely disliked by the community, those with large positive scores will have deemed to be popular.
Upvotes and downvotes scores for comments are hardly a new phenomenon on the modern web. They were made popular by Reddit, which has among the most civil and interesting comment sections anywhere on the internet. But upvotes and downvotes don’t always work — YouTube already has them for its comments, and YouTube comments are thought to be amongst the most distasteful and juvenile on the web. It’ll be interesting to see if Facebook does do a wide rollout of the feature — and if it does, it’ll be even more interesting how they’ll impact the general standard of comments on the world’s largest social network.