There have been many ways that the online nature of the internet was utilized to spur people in the real world to take a certain course of action, especially if that was the very point itself. This explains the popularity of certain web platforms like Change.org, places where people can post online petitions to a person, group, company or a government to do something the petitioner wants, backed by the counted support of other like-minded internet denizens. While these petitions are not always successful, those that are heeded are often spectacularly so; which is why social network Facebook wants in.
As Tech Crunch tells us, Facebook is launching a new feature for their social networking platform right this Monday, January 21. It is called “Community Actions”, and for all intents and purposes it is pretty much an FB take on the Change.org system of online petitions. The main difference is that the Facebook platform can specifically target these petitions to the people or groups they need to go, such as government officials or organizations. The catch of course is that said people will need to have Facebook pages of their own, and use them often enough to notice Community Actions that are sent their way.
While the Facebook Community Actions feature can only be accessible initially to users of the social network in the US, it is expected to go global once it passes this proving ground. Community Actions will enable FB users to create any petition they want. Next, they tag the page of the person or organization they want to receive that petition, and then send notifications to their FB friends to drop in on the petition page to mark down their support. From here, petitioner and supporters can discuss with one another on the Community Action page; and both can further create events or fundraising drives related to their ongoing online petition.
It all sounds workable on paper, but already analysts are raising alarms warning that unscrupulous Facebook users will jump at another new feature of the service to turn it towards an unintended and unpleasant direction. Past related news have raised doubts on the effectiveness of FB’s standing system of “user flagging, proactive algorithmic detection, and human enforcers” to stop malicious online content from being spread. Already Community Actions have initial restrictions such as a blanket ban on all petitions targeting high officials such as President Donald Trump, regardless of subject.
And then of course there is still the matter of a perceived lack of privacy for users’ personal info and data that have recently plagued Facebook. Only time will tell if this new Community Actions petitioning feature restore user confidence, or turn off more people.
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