People shouldn’t have to “like,” the argument went, news articles about war or status updates announcing someone’s passing. Many words were also said about toxic positivity.
While Facebook, now Meta Platforms (FB) – Get Meta Platforms Inc. Class A Report, later introduced ways to downvote comments to prevent them from coming up at the top of a post, founder Mark Zuckerberg has been steadfast in his desire never to let users “dislike” content in the same way as they “like” it — largely to prevent the bullying and online pile-ups that can accompany it.
“Some people have asked for a dislike button because they want to say, ‘That thing isn’t good,'” Zuckerberg told an audience during a Q&A session in 2015. “And that’s not something that we think is good for the world so we’re not going to build that.”
Much of the tech world has been heading in a similar direction — in November 2021, Google (GOOGL) – Get Alphabet Inc. Class A Report-owned YouTube started phasing out the dislike count underneath videos to reduce targeted dislike attacks and their impact on creators. The number of people who disliked a video is now only visible to its creator and administrators.
Is TikTok Going Against The Grain?
With the two major platforms choosing against it, voting against online content you consume may have started to feel like a thing of the past — that is, until the news that ByteDance-owned TikTok started testing a dislike button for comments.
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“We’ve started testing a way to let individuals identify comments they believe to be irrelevant or inappropriate,” the company said in a press release announcing a number of updates. “[…] To avoid creating ill-feeling between community members or demoralize creators, only the person who registered a dislike on a comment will be able to see that they have done so.”
The new feature is still a private dislike — the responses indicate to the app which types of comments they do not want to see but are not visible to other viewers. TikTok already has something similar for the videos itself in addition to being able to report content for policy violations such as hate or calls for violence.
In the same update the platform announced that it removed 85 million videos for going against their guidelines between October and December 2021.
Everyone Should Be Watching What TikTok Is Doing
The latest updates at TikTok can often be followed for hints on where the entire industry is headed given its astronomical growth. The Chinese social media platform reached 1 billion active monthly users in September 2019 and, according to a recent report from Insider Intelligence, is set to bring in more ad revenue by the end of 2021 than competitors Twitter (TWTR) – Get Twitter, Inc. Report and Snapchat (SNAP) – Get Snap, Inc. Class A Report combined.
Given that it is private and closer to a “downvote” option already available on other platforms than a public dislike, it is unlikely that the latest feature at TikTok will significantly reverse the course of social media platforms opting away from public disliking particularly as they’re often called upon to do more to address online harassment.
“This community feedback will add to the range of factors we already use to help keep the comment section consistently relevant and a place for genuine engagement,” the platform said.