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Angry commentard mobs to feel Facebook jackboot in site tweak

So much for free speech, eh?

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Facebook has tweaked how comments are displayed on the free-content advertising network by allowing it to effectively filter out irrelevant or possibly abusive replies on a Page.

The new feature will be switched on by default on 10 July for profiles with more than 10,000 followers. And for now, it's consigned only to the desktop version of Facebook. The company said it will make the function available in the Graph API and mobile at a later unspecified date.

Facebook explained:

You and your readers will have the ability to reply directly to comments left on your Page content and start conversation threads, which will make it easier for you to interact directly with individual readers and keep relevant conversations connected.

Also, the most active and engaging conversations among your readers will be surfaced at the top of your posts ensuring that people who visit your Page will see the best conversations.

The feature will work on an opt-in basis for Facebook users who have fewer than 10,000 fans. The social network added that comment threads will be sorted by relevance to the visitor; conversations will appear differently to each person depending on who they are friends with on the site. For example, missives by anyone who is a connection will appear at the top of the conversation.

Crucially, messages up-voted by the Page owner will rise to the top, pushing any unwelcome opinions down into the thread's basement.

Meanwhile, comments left in a thread that are marked as spam by the Page owner could slip out of the conversation. Facebook added that it would probably down-rank repeat spamming offenders.

It made no mention of trolls, but presumably such a system could better drown out more offensive comments on the network.

Clearly, the feature is an ad-friendly function probably intended to placate brands who use the site for PR purposes - and thus don't want tons of hate and snarky comments plastered over their online billboard. There have been some recent high-profile embarrassments for firms flogging goods on Facebook who misjudge the mood of their online audience and are subsequently hit with a barrage of abuse on the site from disgruntled punters.

Facebook announced this new feature on Monday - the same day that it coughed to a bug affecting its comment threads and "Like" counts across the web. The Register asked Facebook what had gone wrong. It said:

A display bug made it appear as if the Like counts and comments on some sites had been reset. We are in the process of addressing the issue now, and sites should be displaying the correct number of Likes and comments soon. No Likes or comments were lost. We are sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused.

The bug, which appeared only to hamper sites that didn't sport a "www" subdomain, is not understood to be connected to Facebook's comment threads announcement, but the timing of it was nevertheless unfortunate. ®

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