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Cheers to Compassionate Engineers

by Beth on November 18th, 2016

Facebook is getting a lot of heat right now for contributing to the spread of fake news during the presidential campaign. While this is an important issue that Facebook and other social media sites will have to address, I’d like to highlight something Facebook is doing right. Facebook has a Compassion team that works to make life’s difficult moments a little easier and online interactions more humane.

Compassion engineers build products that help people handle everything from bullying, to breakups, to the loss of a loved one. The team turns to academic research and interviews with Facebook users to better understand what people facing these different situations may need and how to encourage compassion among users.

After a break up, it can be painful to see pictures of your ex constantly popping up. And that can happen a lot if you have friends in common. So the Compassion team has designed an eraser-like tool that lets you minimize how many of those pictures you see. And it lets you hide your own postings of the two of you.

The Compassion team also tries to facilitate more empathetic interactions among users. In the past, if you didn’t like a picture that someone posted of you, you could ask them to take it down and hope they complied. Now the system asks why you don’t like the photo with options like 1) it’s a bad photo of me, 2) it’s annoying, or 3) it shouldn’t be on Facebook. This language is then incorporated into the request to remove the picture. Including how the person feels about the picture has made it much more likely that the picture is taken down.

In a similar fashion, teens who report feeling harassed now have more specific options to describe their situation. This reflection helps them better understand their experience and data shows that since these changes were made, teens are more likely to reach out to an adult when they experience harassment.

So cheers to Facebook and their compassionate engineers. It is good to know that they are working to make our online interactions more compassionate. We sure do need their help!

(Photo: Magoz)

From → Compassion

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