Facebook is testing out a new feature that lets users downvote comments – which could herald one of the biggest overhauls in years to the social network.
In a series of tweets, tech reporter Taylor Lorenz posted pictures of her Facebook feed showing the option to “downvote” comments, alongside the Like and Reply buttons. Multiple other people have since reported seeing the option in their feeds.
Comparing the feature to Reddit, where users can downvote or upvote content, Lorenz wrote: “Facebook is testing downvoting comments. Very Reddit tbh!”
The company has officially confirmed the test to The Verge, but a Facebook spokesperson says it’s only intended to be a method for flagging questionable comments on public posts.
Tapping the downvote button hides the comment for the user who taps it, then asks them to say whether the comment was “offensive,” “misleading,” or “off topic.” Downvote view counts not being visible to users. “We are not testing a dislike button,” a Facebook spokesperson writes. “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.”
The last time last Facebook considered a feature resembling a “dislike” button, it resulted in the introduction of reactions on its mobile app and website back in 2016. Those emoji-like animations give users a wider breadth of responses to cover more complex emotions, like a friend’s reaction to a sad or reflective post about a lost loved one. It seems likely that the downvote button, if it does ever launch, will start off restricted to public posts as a way to help users self-moderate sprawling threaded comment sections under news articles, as an example.
Giving users the ability to help regulate public behavior on the platform, much like Reddit does, could help Facebook gather data and insight into the types of discussions users are interested in having. It would also help the company understand the tone and content of comments that float to the top, and those that get downvoted into invisibility. All of this could better inform Facebook’s quest to foster “meaningful” interactions, just as the company is using user surveys right now to gauge public perception of news sources.