Facebook Is Testing a Reddit-Like Feature That Will Radically Change Comments

Facebook has confirmed the expansion of testing for a new Reddit-like feature that lets users "upvote" or "downvote" comments, so results are based on popularity. In a move that could totally shake up its comments formula, Facebook says it will create more constructive dialogue—just don't call it a "dislike" button.

The U.S. social network acknowledged in February this year that it was working to overhaul its comments section. The month prior, its CEO Mark Zuckerberg pledged in a statement posted to his personal profile that the "big focus" for 2018 was to help "encourage meaningful interactions between people."

In a statement provided to Newsweek, a spokesperson said: "People have told us they would like to see better public discussions on Facebook and want spaces where people with different opinions can have more constructive dialogue." The statement continued: "To that end, we're running a small test in New Zealand which allows people to upvote or downvote comments on public Page posts."

Newsweek understands Facebook is still in the early testing phase of the potential comments section refresh and is analyzing user response to the changes.

"Our hope is that this feature will make it easier for us to create such spaces, by ranking the comments that readers believe deserve to rank highest, rather than the comments that get the strongest emotional reaction," the statement added.

Screenshots posted to Twitter show the concept working identically to Reddit, with up arrows and down arrows letting users democratically choose what comments rise to the top. The aim, the site said, is for comments with "bad intentions" to be voted down and made less visible. But like Reddit, in reality it could also be used to surface bad content if enough people band together to game the system.

"We are not testing a dislike button," Facebook told TechCrunch earlier this year. "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." Now, reports suggest the trials have expanded into Australia and New Zealand.

In the U.S. trial in February, users were shown a series of labels including "offensive," "misleading" and "off topic" to help categorize the comments section. These did not appear to be in place during the new tests, per the screenshots.

Reacting to the news on Sunday, the co-founder and executive chairman of Reddit, Alexis Ohanian, responded on Twitter with a short quip. "Flattered," he wrote.

A 3D-printed Facebook Like symbol is displayed in front of a U.S. flag in this illustration taken, March 18, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration