Facebook Groups have become a threat severe for America

While the country is facing the Covid-19 pandemic, the rumours and fake conspiracies have shown how the United States is vulnerable to misinformation. The 2020 US presidential elections are not far, where the Americans are believing and agreeing to the conspiracy theories about vaccines containing microchips and the healing power of hair dryers. These came with the result of misleading information spreading through Facebook groups and making people fall for such conspiracies.  

Facebook users have been going through more content from friends and family rather than from media outlets from the past few years. People promote groups as trusted spaces that create communities around shared interests, as a part of the platform's 'pivot to privacy' after the 2016 elections. In a 2019 blog post, Mark Zuckerberg said, “ Many people prefer the intimacy of communicating one on one or with just a few friends. People are more cautious about having a permanent record of what they have shared".

But the gossipmonger a have exploited the same features, privacy, and community, by spreading false information and conspiracies. All the messaging apps share the same dynamics in which people share, spread, and receive news, irrespective of their source. People there on peer-to-peer messaging apps consider their closed ones as credible sources of information. The groups on Facebook and others provide a lot of potential targets for the bad actors who can create fake profiles to infiltrate the audience. It makes things easier for people who look for stoking the political division. Through this, they can generate the content of their own in a group and repurpose it to use on other platforms.

An example of this can be associates of Shiva Ayyadurai, an independent candidate in the US Senate, who used groups for their astroturfing campaign to boost his online support. Now, Ayyadurai is one of the most dangerous sources of health disinformation. The demagogues continue to spread false information through groups. The analysis of Facebook groups shows that they nurture the false narration of the Obama administration spying against people associated with the Trump campaign. While the 'Obamagate' conspiracy is still not defined by its adherents. 

Recently, the Wall Street Journal investigation showed that Facebook was aware of the misinformation carried by the groups from 2016. Despite, the company did not take any measures to crack down the recent misinformation against Covid-19. Moreover, the group's features continue to cater as a source for lies. 

There should be transparency around the ownership, management, and membership of groups to tackle these issues. Facebook users need the tools to identify the false information that they consume through these groups. Facebook should also make it possible to detect when similar accounts handle various groups and pages. It can help the average users to identify the efforts to mislead the audience using content easily.