FACT CHECK:   Is Facebook finally introducing a “Dislike” button?

Claim:   Facebook is finally introducing a “Dislike” button.

MIXTURE:

WHAT’S TRUE:   Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg confirmed the social network is adding a function resembling that of the long-requested “Dislike” button. WHAT’S FALSE:   The feature in question is specifically a “Dislike” button.

Example:   [Collected via Twitter, September 2015]

Origins:   It’s fair to say that the prominence of Facebook has altered the social context of the term “Like” somewhat irrevocably, and along with omnipresent Facebook Likes came the notion that the site ought to feature a “Dislike” button as well.

As Facebook continued its domination of social media, CEO Mark Zuckerberg repeatedly discussed the “Dislike” button concept during interviews and Facebook Q&As. In July 2010, Zuckerberg told ABC’s Diane Sawyer [video] he would “definitely think about” adding the oft-requested function, but on 2 April 2013 Facebook product engineer Bob Baldwin cast doubt on the feature’s future in a popular Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) session:

Actions on Facebook tend to focus on positive social interactions. Like is the lightest-weight way to express positive sentiment. I don’t think adding a light-weight way to express negative sentiment would be that valuable. I know there are times when it’d make sense, like when a friend is having a rough day, or got into a car accident like my sister yesterday (she’s okay!). For these times, a nice comment from a friend goes a long way.

In December 2014, the “Dislike” button was addressed again in a Facebook Q&A with Zuckerberg. In response to a question about whether the social network ever planned to introduce one, he offered a detailed explanation as to why Facebook users ought not to expect the feature any time soon:

You know we’re thinking about it, on the Dislike button. It’s an interesting question, right, because there are two things that it can mean. And we’re considering and talking about doing one and not the other. So the one that we don’t want to do: The Like button is really valuable because it’s a way for you to very quickly express a positive emotion or sentiment when someone puts themselves out there and shares something. And, you know, some people have asked for a Dislike button because they want to be able to say ‘That thing isn’t good’. And that’s not something that we think is good for the world. So we’re not going to build that. I don’t think there needs to be a voting mechanism about whether posts are good or bad. I don’t think that’s socially very valuable or good for the community to help people share the important moments in their lives.

But the thing that I think is very valuable is there are more sentiments that people want to express than positivity or that they Like something. You know a lot of times people share things on Facebook that are sad moments in their lives, or are tough cultural or social things and often people tell us that they don’t feel comfortable press Like because Like isn’t the appropriate sentiment when someone lost a loved one or is talking about a very difficult issue … everyone feels like they can just press the Like button and that’s an important way to sympathize or empathize with someone in an important moment that put themselves out there to share. And giving people the power to do that in more ways with more emotions would be powerful, but we need to figure out the right way to do it so it ends up being a force for good, not a force for bad and demeaning the posts that people are putting out there. So that’s an important thing. We don’t have anything that’s coming out soon but it’s an important area of discussion.

Over the years, Zuckerberg’s reiteration of the site’s position on a “Dislike” button hasn’t staunched the flow of news articles and blog posts heralding the imminent arrival of the feature. On 15 September 2015, news media announced anew that the “Dislike” button was coming to Facebook. However, Zuckerberg once again hadn’t said precisely that:

You know, I think people have asked about the Dislike button for many years and probably hundreds of people have asked about this. Today is a special day because today is the day where I actually get to say that we’re working on it, and are very close to shipping a test of it.

You know, it took us awhile to get here. Because you know, we didn’t want to just build a Dislike button because we don’t want to turn Facebook into a forum where people are voting up or down on people’s posts. That doesn’t seem like the kind of community we want to create. You don’t want to go through the process of sharing some moment that’s important to you in your day and then have someone down vote it. That isn’t what we’re here to build in the world.

But over the years of people asking for this, what we’ve kind of come to understand is that people aren’t looking an ability to downvote other people’s posts. What they really want is to be able to express empathy.

Although Zuckerberg’s complete answer was slightly longer, he disclosed no additional details about the feature in development that he (it seems) erroneously described as a “Dislike” button. Facebook’s CEO has long maintained that any such future project is likely to focus on expressions of empathy, not distaste.

Last updated:   16 September 2015

Originally published:   16 September 2015