Last fall, a coalition led by Mozilla, Accountable Tech, and thousands of internet users called on Facebook to stop the amplification of election disinformation by pausing Group Recommendations in the U.S. through Inauguration Day 2021.
Yesterday, the company announced it is removing civic and political groups, as well as newly created groups, from recommendations worldwide. It had already stopped recommending such groups in the U.S. in January. This comes more than five years after its employees first raised the alarm about the dangers of Group Recommendations.
"Facebook is finally facing the reality that the Group Recommendations feature it centered its product around for years is also highly dangerous. While the new policies are welcome, the proof is in the pudding when it comes to how effectively Facebook enforces its own policies. We have not yet seen meaningful transparency from the company, especially when it comes to providing independent researchers with access to data that can verify whether the company’s policies are working and if they are being enforced," said Ashley Boyd, Vice President of Advocacy and Engagement at Mozilla.
"This announcement is simultaneously encouraging and infuriating – encouraging, because these steps will prevent real harms if properly instituted and enforced; infuriating, because it should not take months of concerted pressure, an insurrection, and a slew of damaging internal leaks to prompt Facebook to protect its users," added Jesse Lehrich, Co-Founder of Accountable Tech.
The organizations are also encouraged that Facebook is moving toward a strike system for group violations. By discouraging new joins for groups that have strikes against them, and blocking group administrators from creating new groups, Facebook is laying out consequences. Again, how well these rules are administered remains to be seen.
In the end, however, these policy changes provide further proof that consumers are gaining a stronger hand when it comes to holding Facebook and other platforms accountable. By raising their voices, internet users have helped to curb a dangerous feature that has contributed to the spread of violence and disinformation worldwide.