Take a flashy HQ-Trivia-style video interface, throw in the over-the-top naivety of a true tech giant, and then embed it all within an immensely influential platform occasionally finds itself corrupting democracy. That’s basically Facebook’s new interactive video feature.
In a blog post on Tuesday, the company detailed its definitely-not-dystopian-at-all plans to further captivate viewers by incorporating “gamification” into the traditional video experience. Content creators will be able to turn their news programs and talk shows into a bonafide gaming experience through the use of a variety of added features designed to make audience members feel like they’re part of the narrative. “We're starting with polling for both Live and on demand videos, as well as gamification for Live,” explained Facebook in a blog post. “With these tools, our partners can add a range of new interactive features to videos such as: polls, quiz questions, challenges, and more. These can all be used within an individual video or to create a standalone game show.”
While the announcement is ostensibly a rather late attempt to capitalize on the popularity of HQ Trivia — without, you know, actually putting forth the effort to make a standalone app or product — it also speaks to one of Facebook’s fundamental flaws: hubris. To roll out a feature like this, which seems to almost entirely exist to commodify and attract the rapt attention of viewers, without explicitly acknowledging or addressing the numerous possibilities for misuse seems terribly naive at best, and downright insulting at worst.
Zuckerberg has been on a half-assed apology tour for months now in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the shitshow formally known as the 2016 U.S. presidential election. He’s been forced to admit time and time again that he failed to imagine how his products could possibly be abused. Yet here Facebook is, regardless, blindly charging forward with a new Big Idea in tow. Equipping content creators with these tools — which are literally designed to drive engagement by imbuing a program with the addictive sheen of prize-based gaming — is antithetical to Facebook’s current mantra of time well spent and sure as hell doesn’t help prioritize local or personal content over mass produced engagement bait.
Facebook’s previous video endeavor, Watch, faced a wavering adoption rate, thanks in part to the aggressively “meh” nature of its original content, and it seems unlikely that adding polls and gameshow-style quizzes will really fix that. At best, the new feature seems posed to reward the larger more established players that profited from Facebook’s engagement bait days by offering them a new way to game the system, while overwhelming smaller publishers with a deluge of notifications for the latest round of politically-themed “Two Truths and a Lie.”