This article was published on May 16, 2019

Here’s why your Facebook groups went secret overnight

Here’s why your Facebook groups went secret overnight
Rachel Kaser
Story by

Rachel Kaser

Internet Culture Writer

Rachel is a writer and former game critic from Central Texas. She enjoys gaming, writing mystery stories, streaming on Twitch, and horseback Rachel is a writer and former game critic from Central Texas. She enjoys gaming, writing mystery stories, streaming on Twitch, and horseback riding. Check her Twitter for curmudgeonly criticisms.

Over the last day, you may have noticed that several of your Facebook groups have switched their settings to “Secret,” for no apparent reason. That may have been to avoid the attentions of a particular virulent group inserting itself into other communities solely for the purpose of getting them banned.

According to KnowYourMeme, several public Facebook groups were being banned after a single member joined and began flooding them with non-standard-compliant images, then reporting the groups in order to get them banned. Most of the groups being targeted appear to be meme or “shitposting” groups, with one of the biggest being Crossovers Nobody Asked For, which has hundreds of thousands of members and still hasn’t come back at the time of writing.

Supposedly this is the work of a group called the Indonesian Reporting Commission, or at least one person associated with them. Since the groups who’ve been targeted are no longer accessible, this is difficult to confirm. Others claim the former leader was the one doing most of the reporting.

Whether that’s exactly true or just a rumor, several group admins changed their privacy settings to “Secret” in response. When a group goes secret, it means they can’t be found by public search, effectively screening them from anyone who’s not already a member. Trouble is, you can only change your settings, according to Facebook’s rules, once every 28 days, and you only have 24 hours to change them back after they’ve been changed — meaning, these groups could go dark, as it were, for a month just to avoid this problem.

Facebook’s not exactly discerning when it comes to who to ban, and in this case I can’t say I blame them. Given how much negative stuff proliferates on Facebook on any given day, I’d probably ban first and ask questions later too. Nor would I blame the group admins — better safe than sorry.

Facebook users responded in a somewhat questionable fashion — specifically, they doxxed the apparent leader of this group, whose name we won’t repeat here but whom users claimed had a direct hand in the group shut-downs. Doxxing is bad, everyone, and we don’t condone it no matter who it is. An apology letter from this person is now making the rounds, in which he claims the reason he did it is to get back at these meme groups for hate speech and anti-religious posts.

Update (11:30AM CEST, May 17, 2019): A Facebook spokesperson told TNW it realized that the violative content posted to many Groups came from people who intended to sabotage said Groups, and as such, it’s bringing back the ones it removed in light of this incident. The company didn’t specify who was responsible, though. 

We removed several Groups from Facebook after detecting content that violated our policies. We since discovered that this content was posted to sabotage legitimate, non-violating Groups. We’re working to restore any Groups affected and to prevent this from happening again.

Get the TNW newsletter

Get the most important tech news in your inbox each week.

Also tagged with