All posts in “facebook groups”

The bizarre reason why several Facebook Groups just changed their privacy settings

A collective known as the Indonesian Reporting Commission is allegedly mass-reporting popular Facebook Groups.
A collective known as the Indonesian Reporting Commission is allegedly mass-reporting popular Facebook Groups.

Image: JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images

Over the past 24 hours, panic has spread across some of Facebook’s most popular groups.

Several popular Facebook Groups since Wednesday have switched their privacy settings to “secret” following the ban of a popular meme group page with nearly 500,000 members. The group Crossovers Nobody Asked For (CNAF) appears to have been targeted by a collective known as the Indonesian Reporting Commission, who falsely mass-reported CNAF for hate speech. 

The practice of coordinated mass-reporting forces Facebook to take down the reported group. Screenshots from IReC’s now-deleted Facebook Page show a full list of the Facebook Groups it had targeted.

Word about the Indonesian Reporting Commission quickly spread across Facebook, causing many of the platform’s top groups to change their privacy settings to “secret” as a precaution. The secret privacy settings for Facebook Groups essentially hides the community from everyone except its current members.

“Reports of similar meme pages making the switch spurred on a lot of buzz,” said one admin from a political meme group with over 400,000 members in a statement to Mashable. “[There was] fear that [the group] could be a target next.”

“Better safe than sorry,” said another Facebook Group admin in response to why they had changed its privacy settings.

Facebook informs its users via notification when a group they’re in changes its privacy settings. This caused confusion among many users when people logged into their accounts and were greeted with a blizzard of notifications about the settings change from each group they were in.

Not long after the attempted group takedowns, Facebook users allegedly discovered the identity of the Indonesian Reporting Commission’s leader. This led to an explanation and apology from the individual.

“My reason for that wrongdoing was to delete or destroy everything negative in Facebook, like, SARA [religious offensive jokes], hoax, and others, who break Facebook rules,” said the apology posted on an Indonesian Facebook Page. “Also…[I found] some hate-speech or religious offensive jokes.” 

“I’m deeply sorry for what happened to everyone, and to our wrongdoings. I, as leader of IReC, will stop IReC’s operation, and we will take responsibility for everything happened,” it continued.

Earlier this month, Facebook redesigned its website and mobile applications to heavily promote its Facebook Groups feature. The company has been heavily criticized for its reliance on the News Feed and for its various privacy issues over the years.

As of Thursday afternoon, the group that the IReC had removed, Crossovers Nobody Asked For, was restored on Facebook.

“I’ve since changed [the settings] back as it seems the scare may have been unwarranted based on the content our meme page has,” the political meme group admin us.

Mashable has reached out to Facebook for comment and will update this post when we hear back.

Uploads%252fvideo uploaders%252fdistribution thumb%252fimage%252f91417%252f103ab054 fd42 44e0 aa93 0a0104949418.jpg%252foriginal.jpg?signature=cyo9rdniamloewiueoepb3sb6lg=&source=https%3a%2f%2fblueprint api production.s3.amazonaws

Takeaways from F8 and Facebook’s next phase

Extra Crunch offers members the opportunity to tune into conference calls led and moderated by the TechCrunch writers you read every day. This week, TechCrunch’s Josh Constine and Frederic Lardinois discuss major announcements that came out of Facebook’s F8 conference and dig into how Facebook is trying to redefine itself for the future.

Though touted as a developer-focused conference, Facebook spent much of F8 discussing privacy upgrades, how the company is improving its social impact, and a series of new initiatives on the consumer and enterprise side. Josh and Frederic discuss which announcements seem to make the most strategic sense, and which may create attractive (or unattractive) opportunities for new startups and investment.

“This F8 was aspirational for Facebook. Instead of being about what Facebook is, and accelerating the growth of it, this F8 was about Facebook, and what Facebook wants to be in the future.

That’s not the newsfeed, that’s not pages, that’s not profiles. That’s marketplace, that’s Watch, that’s Groups. With that change, Facebook is finally going to start to decouple itself from the products that have dragged down its brand over the last few years through a series of nonstop scandals.”

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Josh and Frederic dive deeper into Facebook’s plans around its redesign, Messenger, Dating, Marketplace, WhatsApp, VR, smart home hardware and more. The two also dig into the biggest news, or lack thereof, on the developer side, including Facebook’s Ax and BoTorch initiatives.

For access to the full transcription and the call audio, and for the opportunity to participate in future conference calls, become a member of Extra Crunch. Learn more and try it for free. 

Facebook pivots to what it wishes it was

In Facebook’s dreams, it’s a clean and private place. People spend their time having thoughtful discussions in “meaningful” Groups, planning offline meetups with Events, or laughing together in a Facebook Watch party.

In reality, Facebook is a cluttered mess of features that seem to constantly leak user data. People waste their time viewing inane News Feed posts from “friends” they never talk to, enviously stalking through photos of peers, or chowing on click-bait articles and viral videos in isolation. Facebook will never shake this reputation if it just keeps polishing its old features.

That’s why Facebook is rolling out what could be called an “aspirational redesign” known as FB5. Rather than polishing what Facebook was, it tries to spotlight what it wants to be. “This is the biggest change we’ve made to the Facebook app and site in five years” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said to open Facebook’s F8 conference yesterday.

The New Facebook

Most noticeably, that starts with sucking much of the blue out of the Facebook interface to making it look sparse and calming — despite a More button that unveils the social network’s bloat into dozens of rarely used features. A new logo features a brighter blue bubble around Facebook’s distinctive white f, which attempts to but a more uplifting spin on a bruised brand.

Functionally, FB5 means placing Groups near the center of a freshly tabbed interface for the both Facebook’s website and app, and putting suggestions for new ones to join across the service. “Everywhere there are friends, there should be Groups” says the head of the Facebook app Fidji Simo. Groups already has 1 billion monthly users, so Facebook is following the behavior pattern and doubling down. But Facebook’s goal is not only to have 2.38 billion people using the feature — the same number as use its whole app — but to get them all into meaningful Groups that emblematize their identity. 400 million already are. And now Groups for specific interests like gaming or health support will get special features, and power users will get a dashboard of updates across all their communities.

Groups will be flanked by Marketplace, perhaps the Facebook feature with the most latent potential. It’s a rapidly emerging use case Facebook wants to fuel. Just a a year and a half after launch, Marketplace had 800 million monthly users. Zuckerberg took Craigslist, added real identity to thwart bad behavior, and now is bolting it to the navigation bar of the most-used app on earth. The result is a place where it’s easy to put things up for sale and get tons of viewers. I once sold a couch on Marketplace in 20 minutes. Now sellers can take payments directly in the app instead of with cash or Venmo, and they can offer to ship items anywhere at the buyer’s expense. By following Zuckerberg’s mandate that 2019 focus on commerce, Facebook has become a viable Shopify competitor.

If Groups is what’s already working about Facebook’s future, Watch is the opposite. It’s a product designed to capture the video viewing bonanza Facebook observes on Netflix and YouTube. But without tent pole content like a “Game Of Thrones” or “Stranger Things”, it’s failed to impact the cultural zeitgeist. The closest thing it has to must-see video is Buffy The Vampire Slayer re-runs and a docuseries on NBA star Steph Curry. Facebook claims 75 million people now Watch for at least one minute per day though those 60 seconds don’t have to be  sequential. That’s still just 4 percent of its users. And a Diffusion study found 50 percent of adult US Facebook users had never even heard of Watch. Sticking it front and center demonstrates Facebook commitment to making Watch a hit even if it has to cram it down our throats.

Not The Old Facebook

The products of the past got little love on stage at F8. Nothing new for News Feed, Facebook’s mint but also the source of its misinformation woes. In the age of Snapchat and Zuckerberg’s newfound insistence on ephemerality to prevent embarrassment, the Timeline profile chronicling your whole Facebook life got nary a mention. And Pages for businesses that were the center of its monetization strategy years ago didn’t find space in the keynote, similar to how they’ve been butted out of the News Feed by competition and Facebook’s philosophical shift from public content to friends and family.

The one thing we heard a lot about but didn’t actually see much of was privacy. Zuckerberg started the conference declaring “The future is private!” He spoke about how Facebook plans to make its messaging apps encrypted, how it wants to be a living room rather than just a town hall, and how it’s following the shift in user behavior away from broadcasting. But we didn’t see any new privacy protections for the developer platform, a replacement for its Chief Security Officer that’s been vacant for nine months, or the Clear History feature Zuckerberg announced last year.

“I get that a lot of people aren’t sure that we’re serious about this. I know that we don’t exactly have the strongest reputation on privacy right now, to put it lightly” Zuckerberg joked without seeming to generate a single laugh. Combined with having little to show to enhance privacy, making fun of such a dire situation doesn’t instill much confidence. When Zuckerberg does take things seriously, it quickly manifests itself in the product like with Facebook’s 2012 shift to mobile, or in the company like with 2018’s doubling of security headcount. He knew mobile and content moderation failures could kill his network. But does someone who told Time magazine in 2010 that “What people want isn’t complete privacy” truly see a loose stance on privacy as an existential threat?

Interoperable, encrypted messaging will boost privacy, but it’s also just good business logic given Zuckerberg’s intention to own chat — the heart of your phone. Facebook’s creepiness stems from it sucking in data to power ad targeting. Nothing new was announced to address that. Despite his words, perhaps Zuckerberg doesn’t aspire to make Facebook as private as he aspired to make it mobile and secure. 

Wired reported that Zuckerberg authored a strategy book given to all employees ahead of the IPO that noted “If we don’t create the thing that kills Facebook, someone else will.” But F8 offered a new interpretation. Maybe given the lack of direct competitors in its league, and the absence of a mass exodus over its constant privacy scandals, it was the outdated product itself that was killing Facebook. The permanent Facebook. The all-you-do-is-scroll Facebook. The bored-of-my-friends Facebook. Users were being neglected rather than pushed or stolen. By ignoring the past and emphasizing the products it aspires to have dominate tomorrow — Groups, Marketplace, Watch — Facebook can start to unchain itself from the toxic brand poisoning its potential.

Facebook may proactively close Pages and Groups before they’re in violation of policy

Facebook today announced changes to the way it handles the removal of content from Facebook Pages that’s in violation of the social network’s Community Standards, as well as when the Page has posted items that are rated false by a third-party fact checking service. It says it will also make it harder for those whose Pages have been shut down for violations from returning with new Pages featuring the same, duplicated content by proactively banned other Pages and Groups, in some cases.

To address the first two issues, Facebook says it’s introducing a new tab on Facebook Pages – the “Page Quality” tab – which will inform those who manage the Page which content has been removed for violating standards and what was rated “fake news.”

The section will explain if content was removed for being “hate speechgraphic violenceharassment and bullying, and regulated goodsnudity or sexual activity,” or being “support or praise” of people and events that are not allowed to be on Facebook, the company explained today in a blog post detailing the upcoming changes.

The “people or events” not allowed on Facebook are those associated with real-world harm. This could include people associated with hate groups, terrorist activity, mass or serial murder, human trafficking, or organized crime or violence. Facebook also removes any content that expresses praise or support for those involved in such activities.

The tab will also inform Page managers which content may have been demoted by Facebook algorithms, if not removed entirely. This includes content that has been found to be false news by independent fact-checking organizations. Facebook began taking action against clickbait several years ago, then later began to flag and down-rank fake news, as that essentially became the new clickbait.

But those who distributed fake news headlines weren’t necessarily aware that their content’s distribution was being reduced as a result. This tab will now inform them.

Facebook says it will identify several types of down-ranked news items, including content recently rated “False,” “Mixture” or “False Headline” by third-party fact-checkers.

However, it won’t actually show those items it deemed “clickbait,” or those that it removed for being spam or due to an IP violation.

In other words, the new Page Quality tab isn’t a full window into everything being removed or down-ranked, only those areas that are today of utmost importance to Facebook to get under control.

“We hope this will give people the information they need to police bad behavior from fellow Page managers, better understand our Community Standards, and, let us know if we’ve made an incorrect decision on content they posted,” the company explained in its announcement.

Proactive Bans

Related to this, Facebook says it’s seen an increase in people using their existing Pages to duplicate the content that had been pulled down from Pages that were banned for violating Facebook’s Community Standards.

While it’s had policies that prohibited people from creating new Pages (or groups, events, accounts, etc.) for this purpose, it hadn’t yet been policing the use of existing Pages – and that, effectively, became a loophole for the violators to abuse.

Now, Facebook says when it removes a Page or Group for policy violations, it may also remove other Pages and Groups – even if the other Pages and Groups haven’t “met the threshold to be unpublished on its own.”

In other words, if Facebook believes the other Pages and Groups will be used as the new home for the content found to be in violation, it will proactively remove them…before they actually do so. (That’s likely to cause some debate.)

Facebook says it will make this determination based on a broad range of factors – like if the other Pages or Groups have the same admins or a use similar name, for example.

The new “Page Quality” tab will launch tomorrow, while the proactive removals will begin in the weeks ahead.

Sidestepping App Stores, Facebook Lite and Groups get Instant Games

HTML5 almost ruined Facebook when baking in the mobile web standard to speed up development slowed down the performance of the social network’s main iOS and Android apps. It eventually ditched HTML5, rebuilt the apps natively, and Facebook became one of the most powerful players in mobile.

Now Facebook is giving HTML5 another shot as a way to expand its Instant Games like Pac-Man and Words With Friends to the developing world through Facebook Lite, and to interest communities via Facebook Groups.

Instead of having to download separate apps for each game from the Apple App Store or Google Play, Instant Games launch in a mobile browser. That keeps Facebook Lite’s file size small to the benefit of international users with slow connections or limited data plans. And it lets Instant Games integrate directly into Groups so you can challenge not only friends but like-minded members to compete for high scores.

90 million people each month actively participate in 270,000 Facebook Groups about gaming, and now they’ll see Instant Games in the Groups navigation bar next to the About and Discussion tabs. Facebook is also considering making games an opt-in feature for non-gaming Groups. In Facebook Lite, Instant Games will appear in the More sidebar so they’re not too interruptive.

The expansion demonstrates how serious Facebook is about becoming a gaming company again. Back in its desktop days, the games platform dominated by devleopers like Zynga racked up tons of usage, virality, and in-game payments revenue for Facebook. That revenue declined for years after mobile usage began to dominate in 2014, but recently stabilized at around $190 million per quarter. Apparently someone is still playing FarmVille.

Facebook launched Instant Games in late-2016 to give people something to do while they’re waiting from friends to reply to their messages. Around the same time, Facebook launched Gameroom — a Steam-like desktop software hub for mid-core gamers, though there’s been less news on that product since. Instant Games rolled out worldwide in mid-2017, and opened to all developers in March of this year. It’s since been expanding monetization options for developers to make building Instant Games a sustainable business. That includes making Instant Games compatible with Facebook’s playable ads that let developers lure in users from the News Feed.

Facebook won’t actually be earning money from in-app purchases on Instant Games on iOS where it doesn’t allow IAP due to Apple’s policies, or on Android since it began forgoing its cut last month. It does take 30 percent on desktop though. But the bigger monetization play is in ads where Facebook is a juggernaut.

With Instant Games on Messenger, Facebook’s desktop site via a bookmark, its new Fb.gg standalone gaming community app, and now Facebook Lite and Groups, the company is prioritizing the space again. That seems wise as gaming becomes more mainstream thanks to players livestreaming their commentary and phenomena like Fortnite. And with Facebook’s expansion into hardware with the Portal smart screen and a forthcoming TV set-top box, it will have more places than ever for people to play or watch others duke it out.