All Blogs,Media, - June 04, 2021
Gizmodo: Facebook Wants Your Thoughts and Prayers
Facebook Wants Your Thoughts and Prayers
Originally published on Gizmodo.com, Written by Shoshana Wodinsky
Facebook’s found a new way to capitalize on the thoughts, prayers (and data) from the religious side of its user base. On Thursday, the company confirmed that it’s begun expanding a new feature called “prayer posts” that will let members of particular Facebook groups literally ask for (and offer up) prayers for other folks on the platform.
A Facebook spokesperson confirmed that the feature’s been in testing for “over a year” before quietly rolling out to the masses over the past few months. Back in April, Robert Jones—who runs Public Religion Research Institute in Washington DC—was one of the first public faces to actually ask the company what the hell these posts actually were.
His question wasn’t picked up by mainstream outlets at the time, but more than a few religious-facing newswires jumped on the story and got Facebook to confirm that Prayer Posts were indeed being tested on a select few groups, though the company wouldn’t elaborate on which groups they were (hint: probably users who are religious).
At the time, Nona Jones—who has the baffling role of leading “Global Faith Partnerships” for the company—told one of these religious outlets that the idea for prayer posts stemmed from the need to “build community,” with users over the course of the pandemic. It’s not a coincidence that Jones was seeing this post in the lead-up to Easter when churches were expecting to see their attendance to be sliced to a fraction of what they’d expect in the pre-covid era.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic we’ve seen many faith and spirituality communities using our services to connect, so we’re starting to explore new tools to support them,” a Facebook spokesperson told Gizmodo.
He added that the feature first debuted in select groups in the US in order to “give people the option of requesting prayer from their Facebook Group,” if they choose.
The company did not answer questions on whether any of the data from these posts would be used to deliver targeted ads at users based on their group-praying habits.
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