Facebook, a tech company that the United Nations said has been literally complicit in genocide, has a new feature that’s being rolled out this week. And there’s a very good chance that it’s going to be abused, no matter what assurances the company provides.
Facebook’s new feature is called Community Actions and functions much like a petition, according to Techcrunch. Community Actions has been in limited trials and will be introduced to a wider audience today, which means that we can probably expect a full-on abusive shitshow by Wednesday. Thursday at the latest.
According to Techcrunch:
Users can add a title, description, and image to their Community Action, and tag relevant government agencies and officials who’ll be notified. The goal is to make the Community Action go viral and get people to hit the “Support” button. Community Actions have their own discussion feed where people can leave comments, create fundraisers, and organize Facebook Events or Call Your Rep campaigns. Facebook displays the numbers of supporters behind a Community Action, but you’ll only be able to see the names of those you’re friends with or that are Pages or public figures.
One advocacy group that got in on the feature early is called Colorado Rising which has advocated for a moratorium on new oil drilling in the state. The petition is tagged with both the governor and lieutenant governor of Colorado. But what happens when opponents of the group try to shut down the petition by flagging it as abusive?
Or what happens when some Trump supporter starts a petition to have all people of Mexican descent deported from the United States? You know it’s coming. We all know it’s coming.
Facebook’s community guidelines are open to interpretation, which means that we’re probably going to see some very inconsistent enforcement as this new feature descends upon the world. All we know for sure is that plenty of people will test Facebook’s limits and when some of them are shut down they’ll cry censorship.
Of course, there will no doubt be a handful of great petitions started. But if we’ve learned anything from the past few years, it’s that Facebook doesn’t give a shit about anything aside from making money. And the social media network makes more money when it keeps you engaged and angry. Spreading joy doesn’t pay the bills.
But who knows? I’ve been wrong before. But new ways to engage with the world are the last thing that we need. As we’ve seen with the government shutdown, you can complain all you want. And none of those complaints matter if a man like President Trump is in power.
Gizmodo has reached out to Facebook for comment and will update this post if we hear back. The company isn’t very fond of getting back to media outlets that are critical of the damage that Facebook has done to the world. Which might explain why they told Techcrunch about their new feature before anyone else.
Update 12:10pm: Facebook sent Gizmodo the following statement:
Building informed and civically engaged communities is at the core of Facebook’s mission. Every day, people come together on Facebook to advocate for causes they care about, including by contacting their elected officials, launching a fundraiser, or starting a group. Through these and other tools, we have seen people marshal support for and get results on issues that matter to them. Community Action is another way for people to advocate for changes in their communities and partner with elected officials and government agencies on solutions.
Sure. Why not.