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Facebook trying to be nicer, tbh

Penny Brooks

18th October 2017

Facebook's purchase of embryonic app tbh makes a lot of sense. First, it follows the classic strategy of buying up a potential competitor in order to remove it as a threat. Facebook learned that lesson when it failed to buy Snapchat back in 2013, and it now sees a survey showing Snapchat as the preferred social media platform for US 16-year olds.

Second, Facebook has continually faced accusations and evidence that its open communication platform encourages trolling and harassment, and that it fails to monitor and filter messages adequately. So buying an app which encourages teenagers to be nice to each other looks like a sensible strategy. The tbh app is only 9 weeks old and has already been downloaded 5 million times - its creators say that the app's success is a sign of teenagers craving more positive interactions online. It works by as a user uploads their contacts, asking pre-determined, positive questions such as "best to bring to a party?", and giving the option of selecting one of four friends. Users are notified when they are selected, but the details of who chose them is kept anonymous.

It may also be a sign of Facebook' business practice being forced to move on. tbh's founders say that "While the last decade of the internet has been focused on open communication, the next milestone will be around meeting people’s emotional needs." That 'open communication' has been the heart of Facebook, and, for example, it has taken a great deal of pressure to persuade the company to release the contents of 3,000 ads bought by a Russian agency during the US presidential election to congressional investigators. Mark Zuckerberg has been very resistant to the idea of releasing such data, and to protecting the 'open communication' which was the origin of Facebook's business.

Now Facebook says "tbh and Facebook share a common goal of building community and enabling people to share in ways that bring us closer together. We’re impressed by the way tbh is doing this by using polling and messaging, and with Facebook’s resources tbh can continue to expand and build positive experiences."

Which can only be to Facebook's advantage.

Penny Brooks

Formerly Head of Business and Economics and now Economics teacher, Business and Economics blogger and presenter for Tutor2u, and private tutor

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