October 22, 2020

Facebook cracking down on groups that give health advice


Mark Zuckerberg, Chairman of Facebook, speaks on the second day of the 56th Munich Security Conference. The fight against propaganda campaigns and other attempts at manipulation costs Facebook billions every year.

Tobias Hase | picture alliance | Getty Images

Facebook on Thursday announced new policies that will limit the spread of groups on its social network that focus on giving users health advice, as well as groups with ties to violence. 

The company will no longer show health groups in its recommendations, saying a blog post that “it’s crucial that people get their health information from authoritative sources.” In the past, closed groups have been used by Facebook users to spread misinformation about vaccines and Covid-19

Similarly, the company said it will limit the spread of groups tied to violence by removing them from recommendations, restricting them from search and reducing how often their content shows up on people’s News Feeds. This move comes as Facebook has struggled to moderate groups, including a militia group in Kenosha, Wisconsin, that used Facebook to organize an event where two people were killed in real life.

Facebook said it removed the pages tied to that event after it happened, blaming an “operational error” for allowing the event to stay up despite the fact it violated the company’s policies. But BuzzFeed later discovered that Facebook did not remove the pages; one of the group’s admins did. It was only then that Facebook admitted it never took the event down.

Additionally, Facebook will now archive groups that do not have admins, which are key to moderating groups. If an admin steps down from their role, they can invite other groups members to replace them. Facebook will also suggest this role to active members, but if no one steps up, the company will archive those groups. If Facebook removes a group for policy reasons, administrators and moderators of that group will be unable to create any new groups for a period of time.

Facebook also said that it will prevent the admins and moderators of any groups that it removes for policy violations from creating any new groups “for a period of time,” although the company did not specify how long that window lasts. 



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