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Facebook rolled out a new prayer feature in US

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As a part of its latest joint outreach to the religious community, Facebook introduced a prayer tool.
File photo: Facebook

The company saw an increase of people asking each other for prayers

The social media giant has been seeking the attention of its users, asking for prayers. Facebook views worshippers as an important community to push engagement on the platform.

Back in 2017, Mark Zuckerberg mentioned that churches as one example in a lengthy manifesto on connecting the world. Aside from that, the company built a team focused on "faith partnerships."

During an interview, Facebook's Head of Faith Partnerships Nona Jones said that the COVID-19 crisis gave a new imperative to the efforts. Jones is also a pastor in Florida and she explained that there was a surge in people asking each other for prayers during the pandemic. Thus, it inspired them to came up with a new prayer feature.

To cap off the outreach, the company hold its first-ever virtual faith summit with religious leaders a month ago. This had a live event broadcast on Facebook Live. They played videos with heart emojis floating across the screen while religious leaders preached to their congregations. Facebook app head Fidji Simo said,

One of the biggest communities using Facebook products to connect are people of faith. When I looked at the data of what was taking off during the pandemic, we were seeing massive growth in the spiritual category.

Meanwhile, Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg discussed a future where leaders engaged worshippers with virtual reality tools and augmented reality. In May, the social media giant created a prayer tool but it's still in the testing phase with selected faith communities. Allegedly, it is now accessible for all U.S. Facebook Groups to turn on.
Prayer request in a private group (Photo from Reuters)

There was a photo showing a woman who used the tool to request prayers in a private group for an aunt sick with coronavirus. After that, members replied by clicking a button to say "I prayed," and their names were counted underneath in a tally.

Apparently, users could opt to receive a notification, reminding them to pray again tomorrow. Others requested prayers for a daughter's broken heart, a son's driving test, and problems with an insurance company.

Jones confirmed that they are utilizing prayer posts to personalize ads on the platform just like other content. Moreover, a spokesperson added that the data could feed into how Facebook's machine learning systems decide which ads to show users.

On the other hand, advertisers won't be able to directly target ads based on the content of the prayer or use of the feature. Also, the prayer tool use would not be factored into the categories that ad buyers already use to slice up Facebook audiences based on a demonstrated interest in topics, like "faith," or "Catholic Church."

There's no announcement yet if Facebook will release the prayer feature in other countries outside the United States.

What do you think?

Source: Reuters
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