Facebook will roll out a petitions feature called ‘Community Action’ in the US this week, which it has been testing in a couple of unspecified markets, reports TechCrunch.

  • With the feature, Facebook users can create a community action with a title, description and image, and tag government agencies and officials who will be notified.
  • The ‘community action’ gathers attention and rallies people to ‘support’ it.
  • People can then have their own discussion feed, with comments, users can organize fundraisers, events or Call Your Rep campaigns.

Facebook will display the number of supporters of a community action, but it would reflect only those names which are the user’s friends or Facebook pages, or public figures. Facebook is now going to allow Americans to tag President Donald Trump or the US vice-president in the actions. At this stage, it is unclear how Facebook plans to deal with spam tagging, trolls and abuse.

Facebook’s community initiatives in the US

Facebook has also led other community initiatives in the recent past, like Town Hall/Call Your Rep feature and the Candidate Info feature. Town Hall allows users to contact (directly message, call, follow) their elected state and federal representatives, as well as local representatives like council members, mayors, and others. Candidate Info was introduced ahead of the US mid-term elections – politicians features piece-to-cameras by politicians to directly connect with voters, they can also explain their policy, manifesto and qualifications.

Apart from the above election/politics related features, Facebook also runs a feature to find help after disasters and recently introduced a local news digest called Today In.

Competing with Change.org

Facebook petitions will compete with popular petitioning platform Change.org. Facebook may have a few advantages here:

Creating a petition on Change.org is a 2-3 step process, and requires basic details like the cause, a description, and a picture. After the petition is created, users have to garner support via social media on separate platforms, including on Facebook. A petition created on Facebook would be easier to publicize (at least on Facebook) to a user’s set of friends. Signing a Change.org petition also requires you to enter your full name, possibly an additional friction factor. Note that even Change.org allows those who sign petitions to withhold their names.

Change.org earns money through paid promotions for petitions and via memberships, and claims to have over 200 million users since it was founded in 2007.

Facebook looking to increase user time on the platform?

Facebook does not release how much time users are spending on average on Facebook, however, a FastCompany report from last October shows that average time per person spent browsing Facebook was down 6.7%. The study also showed that young people are leaving the site. Another report here. Facebook’s content problem is well documented here and here to cite a few, and regulators across the world haven’t been pleased with its data leaks and breaches.

This hasn’t deterred people from using Facebook. At last count, Facebook had 300 million daily active users across both Messenger and Facebook. Although Facebook hasn’t given a breakdown of the exact DAUs between Messenger and Facebook,

Read our Facebook coverage here.