Facebook has discovered a new method to capitalize from the religious community’s thoughts, prayers (and data). On Thursday, Facebook announced that it has began rolling out a new tool dubbed “prayer postings,” which will allow members of specific Facebook groups to literally ask for (and provide) prayers for other people on the platform.
A Facebook spokesperson confirmed that the feature’s been in testing for “over a year” before quietly rolling out to the masses over the past few months.A Facebook spokesperson confirmed that the feature’s been in testing for “over a year” before quietly rolling out to the masses over the past few months.
His question was not taken up by mainstream media at the time, but a number of religious newswires jumped on the story and got Facebook to acknowledge that Prayer Posts were being tested on a small number of groups, but the company wouldn’t say which ones
At the time, Nona Jones—who has the baffling role of leading “Global Faith Partnerships” for the company—told one of these religious outlets that the idea for prayer posts stemmed from the need to “build community,” with users over the course of the pandemic. It’s not a coincidence that Jones was seeing this post in the lead-up to Easter when churches were expecting to see their attendance to be sliced to a fraction of what they’d expect in the pre-covid era.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic we’ve seen many faith and spirituality communities using our services to connect, so we’re starting to explore new tools to support them,” a Facebook spokesperson told Gizmodo. He added that the feature first debuted in select groups in the US in order to “give people the option of requesting prayer from their Facebook Group,” if they choose. The company did not answer questions on whether any of the data from these posts would be used to deliver targeted ads at users based on their group-praying habits.