In mid-January 2019, Facebook users began reporting that people were being kicked out of Facebook groups if they were not active in them. A message from a group administrator circulated as an example of this phenomenon. It read:
Facebook has decided it wants to have some say in our groups. They have begun kicking people out who do not participate. This is not my choice and I am extremely upset about it. They put the booted people back in the invite list. So what I need you guys to do is respond to the post and participate in group as much as you can if you want to stay. Let’s not let facebook dictate who we can and cannot have in this group. -Admin Sara
We reached out to Facebook to see if this statement is accurate, and it is, although it may be a bit exaggerated to say Facebook is “kicking people out.” According to a Facebook spokesperson, the social media platform is moving inactive group members to an “invited” list pending further action from them or group administrators. The spokesperson told us in an emailed statement:
“We want to make sure that when people join a Facebook group, they are joining a community that is relevant and meaningful to them. Now, when someone is invited and approved by an admin or member, they will be able to preview the group first and have an option to accept or decline the invitation. Unless they accept the invite, they will not be shown as a member of the group.”
Per Facebook, that means group members who have never visited or interacted with posts in the group get moved to the “invited” list until they accept the group’s invite. The invitation to the group will expire in 28 days if the user doesn’t like a post in the group or accept the invitation. Although this could result in a reduction in the number of members a group has, administrators can attempt to recoup members by contacting people on the “invited” list once to ask them to accept.
This is a course change from the previous practice, when Facebook users could be automatically added to groups by friends. Facebook implemented the change the week of 13 January 2019.
In unrelated news also pertaining to Facebook groups, the company reported on 17 January 2019 that it removed “multiple Pages, groups and accounts originating that engaged in coordinated inauthentic behavior on Facebook and Instagram” and were part of a disinformation campaign originating in Russia that targeted various countries:
“Today we removed 364 Facebook Pages and accounts for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior as part of a network that originated in Russia and operated in the Baltics, Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Central and Eastern European countries. The Page administrators and account owners primarily represented themselves as independent news Pages or general interest Pages on topics like weather, travel, sports, economics, or politicians in Romania, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Russia, and Kyrgyzstan. Despite their misrepresentations of their identities, we found that these Pages and accounts were linked to employees of Sputnik, a news agency based in Moscow, and that some of the Pages frequently posted about topics like anti-NATO sentiment, protest movements, and anti-corruption.”
Satariano, Adam. “Facebook Identifies Russia-Linked Misinformation Campaign.”
The New York Times. 17 January 2019.
Silverman, Craig, et al. “How Facebook Groups Are Being Exploited to Spread Misinformation, Plan Harassment, And Radicalize People.”
BuzzFeed News. 19 November 2018.