Facebook is taking new action to inhibit the spread of harmful content. The new restrictions begin by limiting the reach of groups and individuals, incrementally escalating to closing problematic groups and removing members who continue to violate Facebook’s rules and community standards.
These changes will roll out globally over the next few months.
Facebook Targeting Harmful Content
The overall focus of the new restrictions is to inhibit and ultimately stop the spread of harmful content. Harmful content is defined as hate speech and misinformation.
One of the focuses is to make it difficult for these groups to continue to grow, regardless if they are public or private, with restrictions leading up to the closing of those groups.
The other focus is on problematic individuals. Facebook groups that contain many members who tend to break the rules will see increasing restrictions because of those members that will limit the reach of the group content.
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Facebook will also impose tough restrictions on problematic individuals who breake the rules that will limit their ability to spread harmful content.
What is Misinformation?
It’s interesting that Facebook is using the term “misinformation” and not “disinformation.”
Some definitions of misinformation and disinformation are the same.
But there is a difference between the two words. The definitions are evolving to have precise meanings that distinguish one from the other.
Misinformation is information that is in error, though not with an intent to deceive.
Disinformation is information that is erroneous and propagated with a willful intent to deceive.
“Misinformation is false or inaccurate information that is communicated regardless of an intention to deceive.”
“Disinformation is false or misleading information that is spread deliberately to deceive. This is a subset of misinformation.”
Targeting Group Recommendations
Facebook is limiting the spread of hate speech by no longer recommending groups that tend to spread harmful content. The intent is to discourage the proliferation of hateful groups by making them harder to find.
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According to Facebook:
“That’s why we’ve taken action to curb the spread of harmful content, like hate speech and misinformation, and made it harder for certain groups to operate or be discovered, whether they’re Public or Private. When a group repeatedly breaks our rules, we take it down entirely.”
Global Rollout of Restrictions on Civic, Political and New Groups
Facebook announced in January 2021 that it would permanently stop recommending civic and political groups to members in the United States. The reason is to show less divisive content to members.
Facebook will now begin rolling this out worldwide:
“…we recently removed civic and political groups, as well as newly created groups, from recommendations in the US.
While people can still invite friends to these groups or search for them, we have now started to expand these restrictions globally.”
New Facebook Restrictions on Groups
Facebook is targeting groups that spread hate and misinformation with new tactics that seeks to stunt their popularity. The goal is to make it difficult to find groups that violate community standards.
Among the new measures targeting harmful Facebook groups:
- Demote groups that violate rules within the recommendation system
- Warn users of pattern of Community Standards violations when attempting to join problematic groups
- Limit group invite notifications of problematic groups
- Demote group content in member news feeds
New Facebook Restrictions on Individuals
Facebook is instituting a tiered level of restrictions against individuals who post harmful or misleading content. Members who fail to follow the rules will see their privileges revoked or limited. Failure to change will eventually lead to removal from Facebook.
“When someone has repeated violations in groups, we will block them from being able to post or comment for a period of time in any group. They also won’t be able to invite others to any groups, and won’t be able to create new groups. These measures are intended to help slow down the reach of those looking to use our platform for harmful purposes.”
Facebook also said that groups that engage in serious harmful activities will face immediate removal without going through the escalating series of punitive actions.
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This is how it will happen:
“We believe that groups and members that violate our rules should have reduced privileges and reach, with restrictions getting more severe as they accrue more violations, until we remove them completely.
And when necessary in cases of severe harm, we will outright remove groups and people without these steps in between.”
Facebook Reassess Meaning of Engagement
Facebook has been facing scrutiny for the harmful behavior and divisiveness that some say Facebook’s own algorithms encouraged. Facebook’s algorithms previously encouraged engagement regardless of the reasons for that engagement, such as rage or hate.
This new approach seems to redefine what qualifies as quality engagement, seeking to discourage negative forms of engagement that can lead to harmful and even unlawful behavior.