Facebook is adding new rules intended to slow the spread of misinformation and other harmful content on its Groups feature. From now on, if a group is removed for violating Facebook’s policies, its members and administrators will be temporarily unable to create any new groups. If a group has no administrators, it will be archived. And Facebook won’t include any health-related groups in its recommendations.
Facebook groups have been blamed for spreading misinformation and conspiracies, particularly when Facebook’s recommendation algorithm promotes them. And the company’s new rules expand on existing efforts to police them. Admins were already barred from creating a new group similar to a banned one, for instance.
Some of the new policies encourage more active administration of groups. If administrators step down, they can invite members to take their place; if nobody does, Facebook will apparently “suggest” admin roles to members, then archive the group if that fails. Also, if group members accrue a community standards violation, moderators will have to approve all their posts for 30 days. If the moderators repeatedly approve posts that violate Facebook’s guidelines, the group could be removed.
The health guidelines take a broader approach by focusing on an entire category of content, not specific rule-breaking behavior. Facebook says that although groups can “be a positive space for giving and receiving support during difficult life circumstances ... it’s crucial that people get their health information from authoritative sources.”
The company has tried to limit the spread of anti-vaccination content and coronavirus misinformation through other methods already, including adding contextual information to posts that discuss COVID-19 and placing banners on vaccination-related pages. Even so, its size has made it a powerful vector for false health stories.
Facebook also says it’s continuing to limit content from militia groups and other organizations linked to violence. Groups that discuss potential violence will be removed, and it will soon down-rank even non-violating content in the News Feed. The company has struggled, however, to define the boundaries of offending content — including posts from a self-described militia group in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where a 17-year-old militia supporter killed two people during a night of protests.