Facebook’s past policies may have implicated innocent users in some controversial activities.
A ProPublica story went viral July 1 about a secret Facebook group with almost 9,500 members. The group was accused by the Soros-funded outlet of sharing anti-immigrant posts that tactlessly criticized pictures of dead immigrants. However, the piece left out a key element: Facebook users could be added to groups without their consent until a policy change in December 2018.
The ProPublica story highlighted “derogatory comments” posted in the group about Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). The outlet ran the names and found that there were border patrol agents with the same names.
A Facebook spokesperson confirmed that before December 2018, users could be added to a group without agreeing to be added. They would receive an invitation to the group, but the invite automatically added the user. Now, the new policy makes users “accept invitations” before they are added to a group.
The border patrol group is 3 years old, according to ProPublica. For two years, some members of the group could have been added without realizing it. Only brand-new group members are guaranteed to have joined voluntarily.
In addition, many members in the group might have missed some or all of those posts. If a member of a group does not interact with a group for a certain period of time, the latest posts float down to the bottom of the newsfeed. So very active members of the group would have been able to see most of the posts, while less active members would not have seen as much.
Just because someone was a member of a group does not mean they were active members who commented, posted, or even saw all of the content.