When Facebook introduced hashtags a few months ago, it became apparent that the site was trying to copy Twitter’s ability to streamline global conversations around large events into one cohesive content feed. Facebook took another step toward that goal this week, introducing two new search functions for news organizations that allow them to gain insight into real-time conversations on Facebook surrounding big events like elections or sports games.
One search tool will comb through public data, while the other one will search and aggregate private posts. The search function that combs through private posts, however, will aggregate the data anonymously so that the news organizations (or potentially marketers) can only see general demographic information.
“This is a way for news organizations to tap into and understand what people are talking about,” said Andy Mitchell, Facebook’s director of partnerships, in the New York Times. “The possibilities are kind of endless, once we have this in the hands of talented, creative journalists.”
The search functions will only be available initially to CNN, Buzzfeed, NBC News, Slate and Sky Television, though it will also be available to Mass Relevance, a site that helps companies interact with customers. While the full privacy implications of this technology aren’t yet clear, the ability for both reporters and marketers to gain access to people’s private posts, even though they’re anonymous, is still a disturbing new wrinkle in Facebook’s ongoing attempts to beat Twitter at the social conversation game.