The Industry

Facebook Is Testing a Downvote Button

Facebook has been quick to clarify that a downvote is not the same as a dislike.
Facebook has been quick to clarify that a downvote is not the same as a dislike.

Facebook is testing a downvote button for comments.

The Daily Beast first reported the move, which the company later confirmed is currently available on a limited number of public pages for about five percent of English-language Android users. The button appears as a third response option, along with “like” and “reply,” on the comments accompanying a post.

The immediate question is: Did Facebook finally decide to test a dislike button?  Users have long clamored for such a feature. A 2015 YouGov Omnibus poll found that 38 percent of respondents wanted a dislike button, while 30 percent wanted reaction emojis.

Facebook, though, denied that was the case. The company provided a statement to Slate: “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 U.S. only.”

So what exactly would be the difference between a downvote and a dislike?

To start, there are no publically viewable downvote counters, and the number of downvotes does not affect the comment’s ranking; such characteristics would presumably be more befitting of a dislike button.

Facebook is characterizing a downvote as a feedback mechanism for the platform, rather than the commenter. Upon clicking the button, the comment is hidden and users can then indicate why they found it objectionable; possible reasons could be that the comment is offensive, off-topic, or misleading. This feedback, though, is only accessible to Facebook’s employees.

Reddit is well-known for allowing people to use upvotes and downvotes to score submissions on its forums. In fact, Alexis Ohanian Sr., the cofounder of Reddit, sent out a cheeky tweet on the news:

Facebook executives have in the past expressed reluctance to add any sort of dislike function to the platform. CEO Mark Zuckerberg discussed the proposition of having both “like” and “dislike” buttons during a public Q-and-A event in 2014: “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.”

The next year, however, he indicated that the company was working on a dislike function, but that effort ended up resulting in the love, laughing, amazed, sad, and angry emoji responses. In explaining why “dislike” was not one of the additions, the platform’s product design director, Geoff Teahan, explained, “Binary ‘like’ and ‘dislike’ doesn’t properly reflect how we react to the vast array of things we encounter in our real lives.”

There currently aren’t any plans to rollout this downvoting test to a broader user base, and it’s unclear how the platform will be using the data it gathers from the button. TechCrunch presumes, though, that this test is likely related to Facebook’s larger push to ensure that people are having “meaningful interactions” with friends and family.