Why Can't You 'Dislike' Anything on Facebook?

'Dislike' button is a scam but some users want one for real.

August 17, 2010, 2:44 PM

Aug. 18, 2010— -- Maybe it's time for Facebook to take off its rose-colored glasses.

The latest scam to hit the social networking site succeeded, in part, because it seemed to offer a function that some users want: the ability actually to "dislike" content on the "like"-happy site.

Graham Cluley, a senior technology consultant with the security firm Sophos, said in a blog post Monday that a fake "dislike" button was going viral on Facebook.

"This latest scam… tempts you with the offer of a "dislike" button (as opposed to the normal "like" button) so you can express your opinions on other users' posts, links and uploads," he said. Once downloaded, the rogue application accesses your profile and then spreads by sending spam messages to friends listed in your account.

Facebook's management soon said it was working to block and remove the malicious program.

But would Facebook ever actually give in to members who want an antidote to the rampant "liking" across the site?

In July, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told ABC News that they would "definitely think about" a "dislike" button.

"People definitely seem to want it," Zuckerberg said in an interview with Diane Sawyer.

When asked about it by ABC News Tuesday, Facebook declined to comment on the possibility of a "dislike" button.

The company said that with 500 million users, 70 percent of whom are based outside the U.S., it made sense for Facebook to offer an easy-to-understand term such as "like." The word is simple and can be translated easily, it said.

But some Facebook users think it's insufficient.

"If [friends] post anything that has any sort of political point of view or even a strong opinion, you know, basically, you click 'like' and you're suggesting that you are agreeing with the opinion expressed in the piece. If you like a piece but you disagree with it, you've got no option," said Dan Tynan, a technology reporter and co-author of the technology humor site eSarcasm. "It makes a statement about you to your various friends that may not be true."

'Dislike Button' on Facebook is Fake, But Fan Page Attracts 3 Million Members

Tynan said the "like" button gives the site a gloss that's inconsistent with reality.

"Facebook – it's kind of that relentlessly cheery, optimistic neighbor that you really just… want to spray with your garden hose," he said. "It may be the reality that advertisers would like, but it's not the reality I live in."

And Tynan is hardly the only cynic on the site.

The "Dislike Button" Facebook page has attracted more than 3 million people with the tag line, "LETS [sic] GET IT."

The page apparently started in 2009 as a petition to create a "Do Not Like" button.

"So alot of us have recently adapted to the, yet again, 'new' facebook," the original petition page says. "We have used all sorts of features and, amongst the newest, we have been introduced to a 'Like' button. So if we can Like things, how come we can't NOT LIKE things? This group was created to let facebook know that it still has work to do!"

Other sites agree that not all Facebook content necessarily lends itself to "liking."

In September 2009, CollegeHumor wrote a piece about "4 Awkward Moments in 'Facebook Likes,'" including a post about 43 people "liking" "Kelsea is in the shower." Another featured a mom liking a post about her son's broken dry spell.

Some news stories might also be better left un-"liked."

"Lauren likes 'Girl Shot in Face…'" was probably not what Facebook engineers had in mind when they decided to give people a quick way to say "thumbs up."

To minimize some of that clumsiness, Facebook recently released a plug-in that lets website developers allow visitors to "recommend" content instead of "liking" it. On the site itself, Facebook users can still only "like" or leave an entire comment.

But though there may be demand for a "dislike" button, social media experts say it's doubtful that Facebook would ever release one.

'Dislike' Button Could Be Bad for Business, Social Media Expert Says

"The whole premise of Facebook, the whole revenue base is on the idea that they can monetize the information that people are volunteering to them about their likes and dislikes," Tynan said. It wouldn't look too good if a band of Facebook users started disliking the major brands represented on the site.

Justin Smith, editor of the website Inside Facebook, said a "dislike" button could be inconsistent with the sharing-oriented philosophy that has driven Facebook's success.

"The main issue with adding a "dislike" button is creating the potential for somewhat negative experiences. If content is posted by a user and it ends up being disliked, that might be an experience Facebook might not want to officially support," he said. "It's not out of the question, but I think Facebook would think seriously about it."

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