It’s difficult for Facebook – and indeed, any digital platform – to stay ahead of spammers and those looking to misuse their tools for unintended purposes.
This week, a new kind of spam attack came to the fore, with ‘sabotage members’ joining a range Facebook groups, posting offensive content to them, then reporting said groups, in order to get them shut down by The Social Network.
And it worked – Facebook has confirmed that several groups were incorrectly shut down due to this new type of attack.
As a Facebook spokesperson confirmed to Vice:
“We removed several Groups from Facebook after detecting content that violated our policies. We’ve 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.”
For example, social media expert Matt Navarra recently shared how easy it now is to share an update to several groups all at once.
Facebook’s hyper focus on groups is ripe for abuse when it still allows anyone to quickly and easily spread content so far and wide in a few taps like this… pic.twitter.com/3k48DzxCDk
— Matt Navarra (@MattNavarra) May 17, 2019
You can imagine how easy it would be, then, for ill-intentioned users to join a heap of groups like this, then post offensive content to all of them at the same time.
In response to the rise in this type of attack, a lot of Facebook groups suddenly switched to ‘Secret’.
You may have seen a rise in notifications of your groups going secret this week – secret groups are unlisted, making them less vulnerable to such attacks.
This is one option to consider if you’re concerned about potential sabotage, which, given Facebook’s groups focus of late, may be worth considering for some. But for business use, that’s less than ideal, as you want your groups to be discoverable – ideally, Facebook comes up with a way to stop such abuse. But given the nature of the attacks, that might not be so easy.
So what should you do? It’s worth paying attention to who you’re approving for your groups, and keeping a close eye on the content posted within them to avoid any potential issues. That’s not really a solution, but as noted, there’s not really an easy way to avoid such – at least, not at this stage
Maintaining awareness of your group activity is key, but again, given the ease with which people can now post to groups, it’s not going to be simple problem to avoid. Facebook will likely be able to weed out those responsible over time, but till then, groups admins will need to stay vigilant.