Although millions of Americans — and really, the world — breathed a sigh of relief today when it was announced that former Vice President Joe Biden had given current President Donald Trump the worst news of his life (also known as, you’re fired), election season isn’t over yet. This means that Facebook still has a lot of work to do to keep its platform from becoming a toxic swamp of misinformation.
The company apparently has a new idea to tackle this problem: group probation. According to a Saturday report in the Washington Post, if Facebook detects that groups have too many posts that violate its community standards, it will place these groups under probation, which will require administrators or moderators to approve each post manually. Facebook has confirmed the report to Gizmodo.
Groups affected by the temporary measure — announced on the same day Biden was declared the next president — will be under probation for 60 days, and there will be no way to appeal or override the probation. Facebook told Gizmodo although the probation period is currently scheduled to last 60 days, it would continue to evaluate the duration of the measure.
“We are temporarily requiring admins and moderators of some political and social groups in the U.S. to approve all posts, if their group has a number of Community Standards violations from members,” Facebook spokesperson Leonard Lam told Gizmodo in an emailed statement.
Lam explained that the company was implementing the measure “in order to protect people during this unprecedented time.”
A Facebook spokesperson said that the measure would give group administrators a chance to make sure all posts in their community are positive contributions consistent with the group’s culture. Facebook tells administrators and moderators that their group has been placed on probation via notification. It also lets them know what date their group will get off probation.
Administrators and moderators can still approve false or harmful posts, but it’s not a good idea. Facebook considers that administrators or moderators who approve posts that violate its community standards demonstrate that the group’s purpose may be to spread harm. A Facebook spokesperson said that when administrators or moderators repeatedly post or approve content that violates its standards, it will delete the group.
In a situation that requires Facebook to determine whether to remove a group, the spokesperson said it analyses administrator and moderator actions. If the people in charge frequently break Facebook’s rules or approve posts from others who break its rules, the company considers those actions to be strikes against the overall group. The Facebook spokesperson said that in addition to moderator and administrator reviews, it also analyses other factors when deciding whether to delete a group.
Facebook’s new probation measure is being implemented during a storm of misinformation and lies, much of it coming from the current inhabitant of the White House and his loyal cronies. Groups on the social media network are a ripe breeding ground for these claims, which very often spread like wildfire.
This week, a Facebook group called “Stop the Steal,” which spread false claims about election fraud, gained more than 300,000 members in less than 48 hours and created hundreds of thousands of total impressions. The group organised numerous in-person protests in various parts of the country, and some comments made references to guns, per Rolling Stone. Facebook removed the group because it was organised around the “delegitimisation of the election process” as well as for “worrying calls for violence.”
As with many of Facebook’s initiatives, we’ll have to wait and see whether this has any real or meaningful impact. The next two months will undoubtedly be trying times, and the most important thing we can all do is protect and respect the will of the people. It ain’t over until Biden is in the White House.