Facebook has decided to go a different path during this pandemic about the religious communities. In recent months, Mark Zuckerberg's company has signed agreements with religious entities to improve the experience of parishioners in the social network and optimizing the conditions for the transmission of live events, collection of donations, and a series of functions close to the habits of a congregation that, in the face of the closure of temples, demands a rapprochement with their spiritual leaders.
A New York Times report indicates that Facebook has signed exclusive agreements with HillSong International Church, The Church of God in Christ, and The Assemblies of God - three of the communities with the most presence in the United States to offer exclusive services and carry out a collaborative study on the capacities of churches to go further on Facebook.
Part of this new strategy includes the possibility of establishing relationships with mosques, churches, synagogues, and other religious communities to host remote worship systems, exchange audio prayers, and recognize the profile of a religious leader online.
Faith: the future of Facebook
In recent weeks, executives of the largest social network in the world held a virtual summit with representatives of different religious communities. Present at this meeting was Sheryl Sandberg, Zuckerberg's right-hand man, and the company's COO, who argued that religious organizations fit naturally into Facebook because, fundamentally, both have to do with connection. Our hope is that one day people will also offer religious services in virtual reality spaces, or use augmented reality as an educational tool to teach their children the story of their faith.
Some success stories were shared at this conference, such as the South Bay Islamic Association in California which raised funds in record time during Ramadan using Facebook Live.
A Facebook spokeswoman said that data collected from religious communities would be handled in the same way as that of other users and that nondisclosure agreements are a standard process for all partners involved in product development.
The Pentecostal association Assemblies of God was one of the first to adopt Facebook as a solution for its community of 69 million members. However, many pastors and heads of faith point out that the use of Facebook adds questions about the face-to-face conditions in the rites, and that these would not have a place in a virtual solution.
In the case of the Church of God in Christ, an entity that shelters six million members worldwide and represents a large part of the African American faith, they were able to use Facebook tools to achieve more reach: a $ 9.99 per month subscription model that allows access to exclusive content shared by the bishop, announcements during broadcasts, and real-time monetization tools through donations.