Facebook tests downvoting as it learns how to gauge meaningful engagement on Page posts

Facebook’s downvoting test only applies to comments on public Page posts and does not affect how posts, comments or Pages are ranked.

Facebook is testing a Reddit-style downvoting option on comments on public Page posts, seemingly as a way to learn what qualifies as meaningful engagement on public posts.

A Facebook spokesperson confirmed the test after The Daily Beast first reported on the downvoting feature’s appearance earlier on Thursday.

“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,” said a Facebook spokesperson in an emailed statement.

The test is limited to 5 percent of the company’s English-speaking Android users in the US, and Facebook does not plan to expand it, at least not in its current iteration.

During the test, downvotes will not affect how a comment on a post is ranked, how the post is ranked in people’s feeds or how other posts from the corresponding Page are ranked. And Facebook will not display how many downvotes a comment has received.

According to the spokesperson, the test is a short-term experiment for Facebook to learn the types of comments that people using its social network consider inappropriate or misleading. In other words, it’s a way for Facebook to train its computers how to weed out unwanted comments at a time when the company wants to encourage more comments on posts as part of its recent push for “meaningful social interactions.”

To underscore the point, the downvoting feature is only being tested on public Page posts, not posts from Groups, friends or public figures using regular profiles. Public Page posts are the types of posts most likely to be affected by Facebook’s recent News Feed algorithm change that is expected to prioritize posts from friends and family members over brands, publishers and other types of Pages.

Facebook will still slot Pages’ public posts in people’s feeds, but only if they are considered to encourage “meaningful social interactions.” To make that determination, Facebook will look to engagement signals such as the number of shares and comments a post receives from someone’s friends and family members. Additionally, Facebook will look at more granular information, such as the length of comments on posts to qualify the quality of engagement, a Facebook spokesperson told me last month. The idea is that short comments such as “Hi” or “Thanks” are not as meaningful as longer comments that suggest a lot of thought being put into the interaction. The downvoting option appears to offer another signal for Facebook to learn how to evaluate the quality of individual comments and, as with its trusted news surveys, to have its users govern that determination instead of Facebook.

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