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Facebook launches petition feature

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Gather a mob and Facebook will now let you make political demands. Tomorrow Facebook will encounter a slew of fresh complexities with the launch of Community Actions, its News Feed petition feature.

Community Actions could unite neighbors to request change from their local and national elected officials and government agencies.

But it could also provide vocal interest groups a bully pulpit from which to pressure politicians and bureaucrats with their fringe agendas.

Community Actions embodies the central challenge facing Facebook. Every tool it designs for positive expression and connectivity can be subverted for polarization and misinformation.

Facebook’s membership has swelled into such a ripe target for exploitation that it draws out the worst of humanity.

You can imagine misuses like “Crack down on [minority group]” that are offensive or even dangerous but some see as legitimate.

The question is whether Facebook puts in the forethought and aftercare to safeguard its new tools with proper policy and moderation. Otherwise each new feature is another liability.

Community Actions start to roll out to the US tomorrow after several weeks of testing in a couple of markets.

Users can add a title, description, and image to their Community Action, and tag relevant government agencies and officials who’ll be notified.

The goal is to make the Community Action go viral and get people to hit the “Support” button.

Community Actions have their own discussion feed where people can leave comments, create fundraisers, and organize Facebook Events or Call Your Rep campaigns.

Facebook displays the numbers of supporters behind a Community Action, but you’ll only be able to see the names of those you’re friends with or that are Pages or public figures.

Facebook is purposefully trying to focus Community Actions to be more narrowly concentrated on spurring government action than just any random cause.

That means it won’t immediately replace Change.org petitions that can range from the civilian to the absurd.

But one-click Support straight from the News Feed could massively reduce the friction to signing up, and thereby attract organizations and individuals seeking to maximize the size of their mob.

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