Facebook Groups Changing Mission, Members Unaware

This is a really fascinating story:

To the naked eye, thousands of users on Facebook are backing Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh.

But some of the groups that seem to advocate for his Senate confirmation — and others that defend Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault in the 1980s — amassed their followers months or years before Washington’s most politically charged controversy unfolded, according to Facebook’s records, offering yet another sign that public outcry on social media isn’t exactly what it appears to be.

One Facebook group, called “Justice for Justice Kavanaugh!!!”, has more than 4,200 members, and its description says that Ford’s testimony to Congress in September had been “clearly fabricated.” But the group came into existence more than four years before that Senate hearing, Facebook’s data show. It previously acquired some of its members while acting a group that sought to defend Bill Cosby against sexual assault charges, and later, as a group that touted Trump’s proposed “space force.” {…}

The largest group purporting to support Ford, “We Believe Christine Blasey Ford (official),” boasts nearly 1,800 members. Before users there warred with each other over the Supreme Court, however, the group had posts about football under the banner “AllSports 247,” Facebook records show. At other points, its focus was the March for Our Lives and the dating app Tinder.

The Ford support group changed themes “to spark debate. Not encouraging fighting,” said Ryan McGuire, one of the people who oversees it.

Why start a new group when you can just grab someone else’s moribund one?

Some of this seems relatively innocuous (and little of it actually seems Russian, despite the ominous quote). If you sign up for one rightward group it moving on to another rightward cause is not unexpected. Signing up for a 247 sports group, on the other hand…

{Ed Note: We have enough places to talk about the virtues (or lack thereof) of the Kavanaugh candidacy. Would prefer any comments on this one be about the Facebook aspect, or Facebook groups in general. Or just Facebook.}

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5 thoughts on “Facebook Groups Changing Mission, Members Unaware

  1. What is interesting about Facebook, as well as Instagram, Pandora, Spotify, YouTube, and other sites, is their algorithms that accelerate extremism, probably unwittingly.

    The whole concept of “If I like this, then suggest that” which seemed to work so well selling consumer items, works in a perverse way with opinion, narrowing our options and feeding us more dopamine hits of outrage.

    I had to finally disenage with Facebook for that very reason.

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    • I don’t know if Pandora, Spotify, and Instagram belong in the same place as Facebook and YouTube. All I get from Pandora and Spotify are music. Instagram is not my thing but mainly seems to be about consumer products and cute pictures of animals.

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  2. Meanwhile, Bike Edmonton has legally changed its name from the previous Edmonton Bicycle Commuters Society, but can’t change its name on Facebook despite repeated requests for the change…

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