Facebook is all set to launch Community Actions, an interactive News Feed petition feature, that will allow users to support political and social causes that matter to them.
With Community Actions, people can unite and demand a change from government agencies, local representatives and national elected officials. Apart from adding a description, title, and picture, users can also tag decision-making officials in their Community Action, who’d then be notified of the petition. You can hit the ‘support’ button to back a Community Action created by someone else and contribute to the discussion feed by leaving comments, organizing ‘call your rep’ campaigns, creating fundraisers and planning events related to the cause. While you can see the total number of supporters a Community Action has, you can only see the names of your friends, or public figures.
For example, Colorado Rising, a non-profit that rallies against fracking, started a Community Action requesting the governor to place a moratorium on oil and gas drilling. Florida residents and a Philadelphia neighborhood association created one to ask the state officials for a performing arts center, and crosswalks by the library, respectively.
The social network wants Community Actions to act as a one-click tool for driving specific government activities, instead of a slew of arbitrary causes. Unlike Change.org and other popular petition platforms, a user doesn’t have to endure a third-party registration process to show their support, and connect with like-minded individuals.
“Building informed and civically engaged communities is at the core of Facebook’s mission,” a Facebook spokesperson explained in a TechCrunch statement, “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.”
The Community Action launch comes after the introduction of other civic-minded Facebook features, such as Town Hall for evaluating politicians, Community Help for post-disaster assistance and Today In for local news. While all these features and tool are designed to inspire positive expression, they can easily be subverted for misinformation and polarization. In order to prevent vocal interest groups from using the Community Action to further their fringe agendas, Facebook will be setting up a dedicated moderation team, alongside a combination of proactive algorithmic detection and user flagging.
Since the platform wants to prioritize local Actions, where community members are the primary stakeholders, users will be assigned ‘constituent badges’ so the elected officials don’t confuse them with distant rabble-rousers. As a result, you cannot tag President Donald Trump or Vice President Mike Pence in your Community Actions.
While the initial tests resulted in a negligible amount of troubles, Facebook will be focusing on evolving the Action feature to curb emergent behaviors without jeopardizing user experience. After all, with open access, the biggest challenge is weeding out the troublemakers looking to divide the masses.
In conclusion, the new feature provides an excellent opportunity for citizens to come together in favor of social issues they feel strongly about and peacefully present their collective viewpoint in front of a governing body. As long as the moderators know where to draw the line, Community Actions has the potential to become the next big thing for people who believe in capitalizing on the mob effect for societal progress. The feature was rolled out to the U.S. audience on Monday and will slowly make its way into the hand of users from other parts of the world.