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Groups on Facebook try to be courteous

(San Francisco) Private groups, successful on Facebook, are looking for ways to maintain the politeness of dialogue in the ultra-divided United States ahead of the presidential election.

Posted Oct 4, 2020 at 10:07 am

Glenn CHAPMAN
Agence France-Presse

Justine Lee, who founded the political discussion group "Make America Dinner Again". of the MADA on Facebook, right after Donald Trump was elected in 2016, knows a lot about this.

Initially, his group organized dinner parties with the aim of discussing politics and exchanging different points of view.

These dinners have grown and become virtual with the pandemic. Sensitive topics of conversation range from racism to police brutality, abortion and the issue of statues commemorating the Southern Confederacy.

While Facebook relies on automated systems and user alerts to filter all nasty dialogues, groups empower themselves with moderators who can ignore or disable a comment if a discussion goes off the rails.

So groups can create their own rules of courtesy: “Obviously, these are norms that we accept as a group. And if you disagree, you get out, ”explains Justine Lee.

Six from the right, six from the left

The MADA group has just under 900 members and a dozen moderators. On the political spectrum, there are six from the left, six from the right.

Facebook, which has more than 2.7 billion monthly users, is trying to shake off its image of a sprawling platform and encourage this private communication in groups.

"As the world grows bigger and more connected, we need this sense of intimacy more than ever," said Zuckerberg last year. "That's why I think the future is private," added the Facebook boss.

Justine Lee & # 39; s group hosted a virtual night last week to follow the first US presidential debate, and the founder stepped in as moderator.

"When things got a little tense, we invited people to use presents or emojis to lighten the mood a little while expressing what they were feeling without using words," he said. she explains.

And even on sensitive topics, conversations are calmed by the fact that members have already bonded with each other, talking about their children, their pets, their hobbies, or the hardships they face. they have crossed, she explains again.

The Australian Dr. Catherine Barrett, for her part, founded the group "The Kindness Pandemic" after noticing a growing fear caused by COVID-19.

The group is focused on kindness, especially intergenerational ones, and now has more than 500,000 members.

"People join the group to make a better world," said Catherine Barrett, the drawing of a heart adorning her fridge, visible during the video call.

"It sounds ambitious, but that's where it comes from. Our group tolerates very little meanness," she laughs.

Facebook just added tools that group admins can use, such as automatically highlighting specific words or temporarily banning certain members to post.

Groups generally work with shared posts that must be approved by the moderators to start a discussion.

"I don't like Facebook in general because I think people are very negative "says Catherine Barrett." But I think the people in our group like the fact that the community he represents is non-toxic, "she adds.

Like other social networks, Facebook and others try hateful content. on platforms without being accused of censorship.

Facebook posted private groups on its platform this week, in the hope that people with different views could find common ground.

"Groups allow people to connect with experiences and life paths that are different from theirs," Facebook App Manager Fiji Simo told AFP.

"More than ever we can use this," he added.

Facebook this month celebrates the 10th anniversary of the groups, which gained popularity even before the pandemic made social connections a cultural norm.

More than 1.8 billion people participate in a group every month.

Written by Rahis

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On the way to the presidential election | Groups on Facebook try to be courteous