Facebook is making it harder to find Groups that break its rules.
On Wednesday, Facebook said it will drop Groups that violate its policies on hate speech, harassment, bullying, inciting violence, and more from its recommendation engine. That would make it harder for them to attract new members.
Facebook is already working on removing “potentially harmful groups,” such as ones that spread health misinformation, from its recommendations altogether. Now, Groups that break Facebook’s rules will:
- Be less discoverable by users who would normally see them in their recommendations.
- Have their group invite notifications limited.
- Be less visible in Group members’ News Feeds.
- Need to have admins and moderators approve all posts, at least temporarily.
Overall, the company will enforce violations much like it does “low-quality posts” in News Feed. Users looking at a Facebook Group that breaks the site’s rules will notice some changes as well. Facebook will warn potential new members that they are joining a group that has violated the Community Standards.
Facebook isn’t just going after Groups. Users will face repercussions, too. Group members that repeatedly violate Facebook’s rules will:
- Be blocked from making posts and comments for a period of time.
- Not be able to invite users into Groups.
- Require approval from admins and moderators to post in all Groups they’re in.
Basically, what a user does in one Group will follow them in other Groups.
“These measures are intended to help slow down the reach of those looking to use our platform for harmful purposes, and build on existing restrictions we’ve put in place over the last year,” reads Facebook’s post.
In the company’s post, Facebook VP of Engineering Tom Alison explained that while Facebook already deplatforms groups that spread hate speech and harmful misinformation, the company wanted an enforcement system for communities that did not fit into those categories.
“We don’t believe in taking an all-or-nothing approach to reduce bad behavior on our platform,” explained Alison in a statement “Instead, we believe that groups and members that break our rules should have their privileges and reach reduced, and we make these consequences more severe if their behavior continues – until we remove them completely. We also remove groups and people without these steps in between when necessary in cases of severe harm.”
“We believe that groups and members that break our rules should have their privileges and reach reduced…”
Facebook obviously finds that Groups are popular, which is why it has promoted the feature so heavily over the past few years. However, it’s clear that bad actors have weaponized these Facebook Groups to spread dangerous falsehoods and misinformation. The company has tried, and struggled, to enforce the sitewide rules on Groups.
Recently, Facebook has removed new Groups as well as political Groups from its recommendation engine entirely. Recently created Groups, if they are eligible, will be recommended once they’ve become established and continue to follow Facebook’s policies.
The company also put more responsibility on Facebook Group administrators and moderators. Groups that break the rules consistently are now given a probation period, giving admins and mods some time to step up and enforce the site’s rules. If they don’t, the Group will eventually be banned.
Most notable last year was Facebook’s decision to crack down on Groups related to the QAnon conspiracy theory, which had hundreds of thousands of members. Even after deleting them, Facebook has been engaged in a game of cat and mouse with new QAnon groups.