Facebook decided faith groups are good for business. Now, it wants your prayers

Facebook Has attracted your attention for a long time. In recent weeks, it has started asking you Prayer as well as in a new Resources Now available for US Facebook Groups.

Prayer The feature is part of Facebook’s recent outreach to the religious community, which it is detailing to the media for the first time.

Facebook sees worshipers as an important community to drive engagement on the world’s largest social media platform. In early 2017, CEO Mark Zuckerberg A lengthy manifesto on connecting the world cited churches as an example and the company formed a team focused on “faith sharing.”

covid gave new urgency to the efforts, Facebook’s head of trust partnerships Nona Jones told lbl in an interview. The new prayer product was created after the company saw an increase in people praying to each other during prayer. pandemic, said Jones, who is also a pastor in Florida.

The outreach culminated in the company holding its first virtual faith summit with religious leaders last month. During a live event broadcast on Facebook Live, where the company played videos with heart emojis floating across screens as religious leaders, Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg discussed a future where leaders would use virtual reality devices and augmented reality. Involved worshipers with reality.

In late May, Facebook made its prayer tool, which it was testing with some faith communities, accessible to turn all US Facebook groups. In a private group seen by lbl, a woman uses the device to request prayers for an aunt who is sick with the coronavirus. People answered with the click of a button to say “I prayed” and their names were numbered down. Users can choose to be notified with a reminder to pray again tomorrow. Others prayed for a daughter’s broken heart, a son’s driving test and problems with an insurance company.

Jones confirmed that prayer posts are used to personalize ads on Facebook, like other content. A spokesperson said the data could feed into how Facebook’s machine learning systems decide which ads to show to users. The person said that advertisers would not be able to directly target ads based on the content of the prayer or use of the feature. The spokesperson also said the use of the prayer tool would not be included in categories that ad shoppers already use to harvest Facebook audiences based on demonstrated interest in topics such as “faith,” or “the Catholic church.” .

“One of the largest communities using Facebook products to connect are people of faith,” said outgoing Facebook app chief Fidji Simo in a fireside chat at the summit, a panel with religious leaders and spiritual breathers. Said after a session, a breathing and meditation practice. .

“When I looked at the data on what was happening during the pandemic, we were seeing a huge increase in the spiritual category.”

At the start of the pandemic, Facebook sent “starter kits” of equipment like small tripods and phone holders to religion groups for live-streaming and shooting material as places of worship were closed. It launched a faith resource website with e-learning courses and quizzes on best practices, stating that “the people your house of worship wants to reach are already on the Facebook platform.”

This year, it has launched an Interfaith Advisory Council to hold regular meetings with faith leaders and teachers. As well as consulting religious leaders – who told lbl his wish list for the site included church planning tools and emojis showing more diverse forms of worship – Facebook already runs large online faith platforms such as evangelical megachurch Life. choosing the mind. Church, said Pastor Kyle Cutter.

While many religious leaders who spoke to lbl welcomed Facebook’s attention in a year when their communities were forced to stay at home, some group users cited concerns over the privacy of prayer posts, questioning whether How their spiritual activities can be exploited online, or said they found it clinical.

Simcha Fischer, a member of the Catholic Women’s Facebook group, said she only saw the prayer post used by friends who felt it “icky.” Her friend compared Facebook to a domineering parent engaging in naturally occurring conversations on the platform: “Whenever Facebook rolls out something new, you know it’s because they make money from it.” Hoping to… eventually sell you something, somehow,” Fisher said.

Some religious leaders and members of the group said they wanted to see the same level of commitment that Facebook showed in launching Prayers to tackle the abuse targeted at their communities on the site. Khizer Subhani, who runs a Facebook group for Muslims in the Bay Area, said he welcomed the company’s focus, but weighed it against his frustrations over Facebook’s handling of hate speech around religious groups on the platform.

For Facebook, which faces attacks from global regulators and lawmakers over its track record of failing to curb harmful content such as violent rhetoric and vaccine misinformation, connecting loyalists during a global pandemic is one of a kind. Application that says it wants to double it. . The faith community “represents what Facebook best does and we hope to keep it that way now and in the future,” Sandberg said at the summit.

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