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Facebook tests 'things in common' label to try to connect non-friends

You'll be able to see in comments if you live in the same city as someone or went to the same college.

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Facebook is testing a "things in common" label.

Getty

Facebook wants more people to discover things they have in common with the other 2 billion people on its social network.

The company on Friday said it's testing out a new label, called "things in common," that people will see in some comments.

Here's how it works: When you read through a public conversation -- like on a brand or publisher page -- Facebook will highlight things you have in common with non-friends who have left comments. So, under someone's name, you might see a label that says "You both went to the University of Virginia," or that you're both from Phoenix.

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Facebook will show you commonalities with non-friends, like if you are both from the same city.

Facebook

Other things the label might highlight: if you're both a part of the same public Facebook group, or if you work for the same company, but are not Facebook friends. The company said the idea is to spark connections people might otherwise pass over.

Facebook said it's a "small" test, only in the United States, but it wouldn't get more specific about future plans.

"Knowing shared things in common helps people connect," a Facebook spokeswoman said in a statement. "We're testing adding a 'things in common' label that will appear above comments from people who you're not friends with but you might have something in common with."

The test comes as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube try to combat divisions and harassment on their platforms. So highlighting commonalities between people on Facebook might spur more civil discourse.

Facebook is constantly tweaking its product to try to add improvements, but the test is also a reminder of how much the company knows and can share about you -- at a time when Facebook's data collection practices are under intense criticism.  

The social network has also been in the hot seat for fake accounts and inauthentic activity on its services, so any new product changes should be scrutinized by the companies to make sure they can be safeguarded against abuse.

Facebook says only information that people have made publicly available will be able to show up in "things in common" labels. The feature will also adhere to people's audience and privacy settings.  So, if you wouldn't be able to see someone's current city, you wouldn't be able to see it in a "things in common" label. For now, there's no way to turn the label off.

This isn't the only attempt Facebook has made recently to try to connect non-friends. Earlier this month, the social network announced new tools to connect mentors with mentees through Facebook Groups. 

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