Facebook has introduced a new tool allowing users more control over who can comment on their public posts, potentially protecting small business owners from costly defamation lawsuits.
The tool will allow businesses to control who comments, choosing whether to let anyone who can see the post comment, or whether to restrict commenting to either friends only, or the people and pages tagged.
The setting can be applied either to every public post on your profile, or to individual posts.
In a statement, Facebook said the change is designed to help offer users and organisations more control of the conversation around their posts, and to “limit potentially unwanted interactions”.
For Australia, in particular, such a change is a long time coming.
Currently, the publishers of Facebook posts — including media organisations, small businesses and other organisations — can be held liable for defamatory comments on their posts.
That responsibility was upheld by the New South Wales Court of Appeal last year.
The change has started to be rolled out, but it could reportedly take up to two weeks before every profile and page has the ability to turn off comments on their posts.
Reactions to the news on Twitter have been largely celebratory. One user noted that it will now be easier for businesses to protect themselves from legal action if they don’t delete problematic comments quickly enough.
Others noted that Twitter has had this functionality for some time, and that Facebook is “finally catching up”.
Facebook finally catching up to Twitter then.
— Professor Anger (@BigDummySpit) March 31, 2021
At the same time, Facebook has also made changes to the way news feeds are presented to users, leaving them less at the mercy of the mysterious algorithm.
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People will now be able to select their ‘favourite’ friends and pages, which will rank more highly in their feeds, and opt to see posts in chronological order.
Facebook is also introducing a ‘snooze’ button, to temporarily hide posts from any one person, page or group, and offering the ability to turn off political ads.
It seems all of this comes as part of Facebook’s efforts to change its image and repair its reputation as a space of toxicity, misleading information and manipulation.
Today, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs — and former UK politician — Nick Clegg published a 5000-word essay in defence of the platform, addressing some of the criticisms levelled against the platform going into more detail on the changes to the algorithm.
You can read the full essay here.
Private Media, the publisher of SmartCompany, is negotiating to join Facebook’s new licensing agreement for news media publishers.