Facebook trials unimpressive auto-comment function on live videos

Facebook seems to love taking two steps backwards for every step forward. After announcing a plan to revive local news reporting, which is arguably to atone for essentially killing local news, Facebook has now pioneered a way to step forward and backwards at the same time.

Facebook trials unimpressive auto-comment function on live videos

Facebook’s latest feature lets users select from several pre-created messages in order to comment on Facebook Live video streams. These messages range from trite one-word comments to the “prayer” emoji. Clicking on these messages posts them which, as a cynic of the system, seems to simply save people from actually engaging with or thinking about the actual content of the video they’re commenting on.

One of the first videos to offer this new functionality was a live video from an American local news channel regarding a hospital shooting that left four dead. Postable comments included “Heartbreaking.” and the “sad but relieved face” emoji.

The feature has also been reported on other videos although, like many of Facebook’s other new features, it’s not yet available in the UK. Other types of videos that have the auto-comment function include gaming streams and online marketing channels, however, the suggested responses are different on these streams.

The auto-comments use machine learning to recognise the type of video, and therefore suggest appropriate responses. For example on a shopping channel the comments suggested compliments such as “pretty” or “cute”, although live news channels often had suggested comments that seemed incorrect. Clearly the machine learning is in its infancy.

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While machine learning could be used to great effect in Facebook comments for certain things, such as responding to unsolicited messages or working out optimal headings when posting links, only using technology like this to comment emojis on Facebook Live videos could be seen as a missed opportunity.

Many have been quick to compare the auto-comment feature to Gmail’s smart reply function, however, on Gmail you’re likely just confirming your attendance to meetings or thanking people for forwarding you information. Facebook Live videos, on the other hand, often show sensitive breaking content like the aforementioned hospital shooting.

Few would consider banal phrases or emojis as appropriate responses to tragedies like this, as they remove the human element that’s supposed to define Facebook. And that’s the problem with auto-commenting — it lets viewers communicate in trite phrases and stops proper interaction and engagement on the platform.

We reached out to Facebook for comment, and a spokesperson told us “We have been testing a suggested comment feature on Live videos. Clearly this wasn’t implemented properly and we have disabled this feature for now.

Facebook’s implementation of this mechanic seems simply to be another step in its ongoing mid-life crisis. Plagued with an endless stream of hacks, leaks and terrible PR moves, it’s been rolling out a succession strange products, services and initiatives that serve little to no benefit. While it has made some impressive steps, including attempting to crack down on bad players online, it still has a way to go to earn back customer faith. However perhaps with a little fine-tuning and work, auto-commenting could be turned into a valuable function.

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