Facebook ‘admins’ accountable for damaging claims
By Phil Hart
ADMINISTERING a Facebook group may sound glamorous but it can be hard work.
It helps to have at least two ‘admins’ in case one is suspended for any reason.
Different sites have different rules for managing groups.
Some groups don’t seem to care what gets published, while others take truth and common sense more seriously.
All reputable sites publish guidelines for moderators.Read more
Facebook’s guidelines can be found at bit.ly/2Cg2cur.
They usually contain common elements, including that moderators (or ‘admins’) are accountable to group members for their actions and decisions.
This means responding openly and respectfully to legitimate concerns raised by aggrieved group members.
Explaining why posts have been deleted or members penalised will help a group to function more effectively.
Transparency also provides an opportunity for further discussion if group members disagree with a decision.
Administering a group with fairness and equity reduces the chance of members feeling victimised or voiceless.
It also reduces the ‘echo chamber’ effect that serves to perpetuate myths and further spread damaging misinformation.
Consistent decision-making and correct application of group rules will increase confidence and trust within the group.
Recognition and respect for members’ different values, knowledge and skills can create a constructive group dynamic that benefits all members.
On the other hand, allowing a Facebook group to spread unchecked misinformation can be socially destructive.
Pharmaceutical treatments not backed by randomised double-blind trials or lacking sufficiently large epidemiological studies should be regarded as misinformation.
False claims that hydroxychloroquine can prevent COVID-19 is an example of potentially lethal misinformation.
All moderators have a responsibility to check if false claims are being used to hijack group discussions and disrupt community cohesion.
Physically impossible claims such as 5G mobile phone networks causing cancer and microchips being concealed in vaccines should be blocked as misleading nonsense.
False claims by opportunists such as deregistered UK physician Andrew Wakefield that mumps, measles and rubella vaccines cause autism should also be blocked.
These are often accompanied by demands to “do your own research” and a rejection of scientific evidence that often ends in abusive slanging matches.
Failure to discourage misinformation suggests a hidden agenda.
A study reported by the American Society for Microbiology found that nearly eight in 10 adults believe in at least one false statement about COVID-19 or are unsure about it.
The damage this causes within communities can be found at bit.ly/3Qmd6qe.