Facebook is trying to clean up its Groups experience and limit the reach of potentially problematic users and communities. The company announced multiple changes to groups today, including plans to put users who break rules on probation, further limit the reach of civic and political groups, and require more moderation in groups that have violated Facebook’s rules.
Group members who break Facebook’s rules will suffer various new consequences. Initially, people with repeat violations will be prevented from posting or commenting in any group for a certain period of time. A spokesperson tells The Verge this time could be either seven or 30 days, depending on the number of violations and the severity of them. They also won’t be able to invite other people to any groups or create new groups.
One of the biggest changes is around members who break rules. Groups that have numerous violations will soon come with a warning label, too. Whenever a user tries to join one of these groups, they’ll receive a disclaimer that the group has violated community standards, which might dissuade them from joining. Facebook will also limit invite notifications for these groups. For existing members, the company will reduce the distribution of the group’s content, meaning it’ll be shown lower in the News Feed. (It first piloted this functionality around the 2020 US presidential election, but it’s now making it a regular feature.)
Finally, these violating groups’ admins and moderators will have to temporarily approve all posts whenever the group has a substantial number of members who have violated policies or were part of other groups that were removed for breaking the rules. If these admins or moderators just approve everything, even content that breaks the rules, the entire group will be taken down.
As a broader update, Facebook started removing civic and political groups earlier this year, as well as newly created groups, from recommendations in the US. It’s now making that the standard worldwide.
Facebook has received much criticism for allowing extremist political groups, as well as groups that spread conspiracy theories or anti-vax rhetoric, to thrive on its platform. As one example, members of the group that plotted to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer used Facebook groups to organize, according to an FBI affidavit. And in the past, even its attempts to limit the reach of political groups have failed, according to The Markup, which found that political recommendations still showed up for users. (A Facebook spokesperson says this error has now been corrected.)
The company continues to be in a game of whack-a-mole, where it attempts to squash the bad groups and members, only to see others sprout up. These new rules might dissuade some people from behaving badly or limit their time on the platform, but there’s always a chance that they just create a new account or skirt around the rules without breaking them.