Private Facebook Groups May Host Harmful Content, Says BBC

The BBC has warned that Facebook’s extra focus on private groups is making it harder for outsiders to see when it is avoiding its content moderation responsibilities.

Mark Zuckerberg announced in March that his company is working to create a more intimate social media environment. Users are being encouraged to interact with their closest friends through private messaging, and with people who share common interests in closed groups.

Many of these groups have become places to share offensive posts, however, and other users cannot see inside to report harmful content. This is said to be particularly worrying since Facebook admitted its detection algorithms largely depend upon user reports.

It may not be able to rely on the individuals within the groups to flag the content because, as BBC journalist Dave Lee notes, “the inappropriate content is the reason people joined the group in the first place.”

He concluded the article by asking whether Facebook was actually trying to fix itself or whether it was just making it harder for critics to see that it’s “broken”.

A private group was discovered this week that contained US Border Patrol agents joking about migrant deaths and regularly making racist and sexist comments.

The concerns have been raised as part of a wider debate on the bounds of acceptable speech online. Some commentators seek to limit the spread of offensive content, while others say freedom of expression must be protected.

The Trump administration in the US recently announced a social media summit where such issues will be discussed. Conservative voices, including PragerU, will reportedly give their thoughts on the current state of online censorship.

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