Facebook is testing a downvote feature for comment moderation

9 Feb 2018

You can downvote comments – just don't call it a dislike button. Image: Creative icon styles/Shutterstock

While the company stresses it is not a ‘dislike’ button, Facebook is exploring the possibility of letting users downvote comments.

Facebook has confirmed it is running tests of a ‘downvote’ button, which will allow users to flag and hide comments they feel are inappropriate. For the time being, the feature is being tested on a limited set of public page comment sections in the US only.

Taylor Lorenz, a reporter for The Daily Beast, tweeted screenshots of the feature on 8 February. The new option to downvote comments appears beside the reply option underneath the comment bubble.

A dislike button has been one of Facebook’s most requested features for years now but, according to a statement provided, the company is keen to note it is a downvote option.

Not a dislike button?

Facebook said: “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 US only.”

When the downvote option is selected, users are provided with further options in terms of categorising why they chose to use it. They can choose ‘offensive’, ‘misleading’ and ‘off topic’, among others.

There is already a ‘Hide’ option in place on Facebook for comments but it is concealed behind the drop-down arrow.

Facebook says the feature was designed to help moderators find and deal with uncivil or inappropriate content in a more efficient way and the option only appears on public pages at present. The ranking of a downvoted comment is not affected, the feedback is simply sent back to staff.

In 2015, CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained he did not want to create a dislike button: “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.”

Instead, the company developed the reactions feature, building it into Messenger.

The downvote option was popularised by Reddit, and its co-founder Alexis Ohanian tweeted about Facebook’s latest feature as the “sincerest form of flattery”.

This feature comes as part of Facebook’s larger-scale efforts to create a more pleasant experience for users of the platform.

Some people are questioning how well this type of feature will work on Facebook, as it could result in people downvoting comments for personal reasons and possibly cause more difficulty on the social network. It could end up fulfilling the role of a dislike button, despite the company’s intentions.

New community initiatives

Facebook also made an announcement today (9 February) at its European Communities Summit in London regarding the communities it fosters on the platform. The Facebook Community Leadership Program sees the company commit tens of millions of dollars to invest in those building communities and groups, including $10m of direct grant funding.

Residency and fellowship opportunities for Facebook community leaders are also on the cards, as well as community leadership circles to bring local groups together and specific groups for admins with large group memberships.

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects