AP Explains: How Facebook handles speech in 'secret' groups

AP Explains: How Facebook handles speech in 'secret' groups



U.S. Border Patrol agents are under fire for posting offensive messages in a "secret" Facebook group that included sexually explicit posts about U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and dismissive references to the deaths of migrants in U.S. custody. The existence of that group was reported Monday by ProPublica . Prior to that, few people outside the group had ever heard of it.

Facebook enforces complex guidelines against hate speech, abuse and other categories when it comes to users' posts to their friends or to the public. Here's a look at how the social network handles similarly offensive material when it's posted inside the more private corners of the service, in the online gatherings known as "groups."


Facebook groups are exactly what they sound like — collections of individual users who gather on the company's platform to discuss hobbies, tell jokes, educate or support one another, plan trips or whatever else strikes their fancy. Joining a group typically requires the approval of a group administrator or an existing member.

Many such groups are public, meaning anyone can search them out, see a list of their members and browse people's posts without joining — even if they're not on Facebook. Other groups are "closed." These boards show up in search, although only members can see posts and the names of other members.

"Secret" groups, by contrast, aren't visible at all to outsiders; not even their names turn up in searches. Joining one requires being invited by a current member.

Plenty of secret groups aren't remotely nefarious. For example, people discussing health matters or posting photos of their children to family members and friends often make such groups secret.

Facebook says about 400 million of its users are in what it...

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