Concerns Facebook's 'dislike' button will be abused by cyberbullies

The new, so-called 'dislike' button for Facebook has divided anti-cyberbullying groups
The new, so-called 'dislike' button for Facebook has divided anti-cyberbullying groups

The response to a new, so-called 'dislike' button for Facebook has divided anti-cyberbullying groups.

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg first announced the addition at a questions and answers session in California, but the proposal has sparked concern that such a feature could be abused.

Speaking at the event, Mr Zuckerberg said that the button would be used to express empathy, rather than to down vote other users' posts.

"Not every moment is a good moment," he said, referring to posts about the current refugee crisis or the deaths of loved ones. "Your friends and people want to be able to express that they understand you and relate to you."

No release date has been given for the new function, but Mr Zuckerberg said that it would be tested soon.

However, the button has sparked controversy among commentators, who feel that such a feature could be abused by cyberbullies.

Simon Graham, project co-ordinator for online safety website, said that the new button could actually help teenagers to communicate more appropriately online.

He said that he shared Facebook's view that it was an "empathy" button and could be used in response to sad or distressing posts.

"If you 'like' something like that, it comes across as insensitive," he said. "Obviously people are entitled to dislike stuff and that's not bullying."

Mr Graham also said that social media could offer young people a space that was not defined by rules, which was rare for adolescents.

He added that since last year, schools were required to deal with cyberbullying, as well as run courses on combating online abuse and creating a positive culture among students.

But Marguerite Kiely, clinical director for children and adolescents at Pieta House, said that certain young people could take being "disliked" on Facebook more seriously than others.

"What one adolescent may say, another adolescent may pick up on very differently," she said.

"You have hugely sensitive teenagers that would personalise things a lot."

Ms Kiely added that social media played a massive role in the lives of teenagers and it could be hard to escape negative comments online.

"It's on at 2am, it's on at 7am. Even before they wake up in the morning, they are checking social media," she said.

She said that the 'like' button on Facebook could also upset younger users, as they strive to attain as many likes as possible.

"If they are having problems with the like button, what are they going to have with a dislike button?," she said.

Meanwhile, deputy director of, John Buckley, said he supported the introduction of the button if it allowed users to express more empathy.

"Anything that can be done to improve communication with each other should be welcomed," he said.

All three groups urged victims of cyberbullying to seek help immediately and to use 'block' and 'report abuse' functions on social media. They also encouraged those who witness cyberbullying online to take action to help.

Those affected by cyberbullying can contact Childline on 1800 66 66 66.

Jane O'Flaherty