© Reuters. A video from Facebook’s virtual gathering of believers with religious leaders on June 29, 2021 is seen in this screenshot taken in New York, USA on July 21, 2021. Handout via REUTERS
(Reuters) – Facebook (NASDAQ 🙂 has long grabbed your attention. In recent weeks, he has also started asking for your prayers in a new tool that is now available for Facebook Groups in the US.
The prayer function is part of Facebook’s recent and coordinated engagement with the religious community, which it is detailing to the media for the first time. Facebook views parishioners as a vital community for bringing attention to the world’s largest social media platform. Back in 2017, CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in his long manifesto on connecting the world, cited churches as one example, and the company created a team focused on “religious partnership.”
COVID is giving new impetus to the effort, Nona Jones, head of the religious partnership at Facebook, told Reuters. The new prayer product was launched after the company saw an increase in the number of people asking each other for prayers during the pandemic, said Jones, who is also a pastor in Florida.
The event culminated in the fact that the company held its first virtual religious summit with religious leaders last month. During a live broadcast of the event on Facebook Live, where the company showed videos of heart emoji floating across the screen as religious leaders ministered to their parishioners, COO Sherrill Sandberg discussed a future in which leaders will engage parishioners with virtual reality and augmented reality tools. …
At the end of May, Facebook made its prayer tool, which it tested with some religious communities, available for inclusion for all Facebook groups in the US. In one private group Reuters saw, a woman used a tool to ask her to pray for an aunt with coronavirus. People responded by pressing a button to say, “I prayed,” and their names were listed below. Users can choose to receive notifications reminding them to pray again tomorrow. Others asked for prayer for their daughter’s broken heart, their son’s driving test, and trouble with the insurance company.
Jones confirmed that prayer posts are used to personalize Facebook ads like other content. A spokesperson said the data could be used to help Facebook’s machine learning systems decide which ads to show to users. According to the source, advertisers will not be able to directly target ads based on the content of the prayer or the use of this feature. The spokesperson also said the use of prayer tools would not be included in categories that ad buyers are already using to segment Facebook audiences based on demonstrated interest in topics such as “faith” or “Catholicism.”
“One of the largest communities using Facebook products to connect is people of faith,” outgoing head of the Fiji Facebook app Simo said in a fireside conversation at the summit, following discussions with religious leaders and a session of spiritual breathwork, breathing exercises and meditation. …
“When I looked at the data on what was happening during the pandemic, we saw a significant increase in the spiritual category.”
At the onset of the pandemic, Facebook sent out “starter kits” of equipment, such as small tripods and phone holders, to religious groups to broadcast live and capture content in response to temple closures. He launched a religious resource website with eLearning courses and best practice quizzes, advertising that “the people your meetinghouse wants to reach are already on Facebook.”
This year, he established an Interfaith Advisory Council to meet regularly with religious leaders and educators. In addition to consulting with religious leaders, who told Reuters that their wishlists for the site include church planning tools and emojis showing more varied forms of worship, Facebook is targeting the brains of organizations that already work with major online worship platforms such as the Life Evangelical Megachurch. Church – said Pastor Kyle Cutter.
While many religious leaders who spoke to Reuters welcomed Facebook’s attention in a year when their congregations were forced to stay at home, some Group users raised concerns about the privacy of prayer messages, questioning how their spiritual activities could be used in The Internet, or said they found it clinical.
Simcha Fischer, a member of the women’s Catholic Facebook group, said she only saw the prayer post used by friends who said it was “unsightly.” A friend of hers compared Facebook to a domineering parent involved in natural interactions on the platform: “Every time Facebook releases something new, you know it’s because they hope to make money from it … to end up somehow way to sell you something. , “Fisher said.
Several religious leaders and members of the Group said they would like to see the same level of commitment that Facebook has shown by launching prayers to combat abuse against their communities on the site. Heather Subhani, who runs Facebook’s Bay Area Muslims Group, which has been given early access to the prayer function, said he welcomes the company’s focus, but matched it with his disappointment with Facebook’s handling of hate speech against religious groups on platform.
For Facebook, which faces attacks from global regulators and lawmakers, including through its inability to contain harmful content such as violent rhetoric and misinformation about vaccines, connecting believers in a global pandemic is the app it says , wants to double. … The communities of believers represent “the best of Facebook, and we hope it will, now and in the future,” Sandberg said at the summit.