What Is The Potential Impact of Facebook’s New ‘Downvote’ Feature?

Facebook Down Vote

Facebook has recently been testing a feature where users can upvote or downvote comments. Some of you may recognise that this is as an integral part of popular social media site Reddit.

Since the feature is currently only being trialled in New Zealand, Facebook has yet to make any formal announcement of the new feature on its social platform or new blog page. Although they have confirmed earlier in the year that it was testing the upvote/downvote options, several Twitter users noted that the function had become available to them on their Facebook profiles. Reddit Co-Founder Alexis Ohanian even announced he was “flattered” to see Facebook’s latest attribute. When the ability to react to content with emojis was introduced to Facebook, rumours circulated that they would also include a dislike button. Is this new feature the alternative to that much-requested button?

Reddit Downvote Feed

How will it work?

From the screenshots that have been shared online already, it seems that the upvoting and downvoting function will remain independent of the like and emoji reaction button. It could be argued that this function will remain a separate entity as it serves a different purpose – ranking comments by their affinity as opposed to their emotional reaction.

Why are they introducing this feature?

In January, Zuckerberg wanted to “encourage meaningful interactions between people.” Facebook decided to introduce an algorithm update to the News Feed, which prioritised posts from a users friends and family over content from brands and publishers. This effort has been seen as a way in which users can spark a discussion and gain perspective from both sides of a debate.

This update will allow an open platform for users to get a consensus toward its audience views and opinions and by implementing a voting aggregation system, it will ensure the most representative, authentic and potentially controversial comments are placed at the very top of the comment thread.

What about bots?

Let’s rewind for just a moment. Like Twitter, Facebook has been having its own issues with Russian bots spreading inflammatory posts about Russian political propaganda and ‘fake news.’ Just last month, Facebook was required to suspend 273 accounts and pages linked to a Russian misinformation agency.  Could bots collude to ensure that genuine articles or factual arguments are pushed lower in the comment rankings? Reddit’s voting system works whereby the most upvoted comment is placed at the very top of the comment thread. If Facebook’s voting aggregator works in a similar matter, the issue of spreading misinformation could be back on the platforms list of worries.

On the flipside, the introduction of this feature could help users self-moderate content in a battle against actual ‘fake news,’ provided Facebook are able to spot the manipulation of downvotes before comments are removed.

What (other) features have Facebook copied?

Facebook has always received a bit of public grilling during their apparent conquest to pinch a bit of this feature and a bit of that feature from its online competitors. Last year, Snapchat had a number of its key functions replicated by Facebook, such as the introduction of camera filters and ‘Facebook Stories.’ Things got so tense that Miranda Kerr, the spouse of Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel, ranted to The Times that she was ‘appalled’ by Facebook’s plagiaristic behaviour: “Can they not be innovative? Do they have to steal all of my partner’s ideas?”

Will it promote cyberbullying?

Facebook must also be careful to avoid the creation of online hiveminds, where users may fish for upvotes instead of contributing to a constructive discussion. Reddit has its own problems with users regurgitating information that is not entirely true. The spread of misinformation will be one of Facebook’s key battles, but if they manage to moderate this potential predicament, the feature could ultimately provide a better-informed discussion between users.

So what does this mean for you/your business?

What will this mean for your business? Well, expect to see more of a genuine discussion amongst your comment thread. Utilise this new tool as another method of market research, learn from your audience and see what opinion they agree with most and even understand the pain points that are being brought about by your services or products.

It’s also time to start taking more of a consideration towards the type of content you are posting on your page. Brand engagement, with the page making an effort to communicate with its audience, is an essential part of growing an online audience. Fail to recognise this and users will surely start to call out your brand. Don’t be surprised to see the number of negative comments increase if you avoid engaging with fans who want to engage with you.

Social media has the ability for users to directly engage with their favourite brands and personalities. Your audience won’t shy away from telling you ‘how it is’ and will draw on the leverage of other users to get their point across, ensuring it is sitting pretty at the top of the comments for users to see.