According to a recent New York Times profile of Arturo Bejar, the director of engineering for the Facebook Protect and Care team, the world’s largest social networking site is actively trying to make its users nicer and treat each other with more respect.
Online discussions are often fraught with inappropriate and harassing language; the anonymity that Internet discourse provides gives many individuals free reign to be mean or cruel in ways that they would never dream of being to someone’s face.
“The way our brains work, we have evolved to understand each other by tone of voice or seeing facial expressions, but that gets lost through the devices we use to communicate,” Bejar said.
That’s why Bejar’s team of 80 employees worked to create tools for users to report harmful posts and photos, and to notify Facebook if content “hurt their feelings.” And according to the site, the tools are being utilized in a big way: over 8 million users flag content per week. Though the team has experienced success by providing more language options to help users convey how offensive content makes them feel, they may take it even further soon by allowing users to share emotional sounds.
Though Facebook landed in hot water for manipulating the emotions of users by adjusting the content on their News Feeds, this sort of tool actually gives users more freedom to express how they feel. It’s still kind of creepy that Facebook is trying to shape how users act and behave, but at least this time it’s for a good cause.