FAQs to help our growing international team of See Through News Facebook Group moderators keep a clean house, and point people towards effective climate action.
We’ve written elsewhere about why and how we use Facebook groups to reach our target audience.
This article is a practical policy reference guide for our growing team of international volunteer moderators. It might also interest anyone who’s made the perfectly rational decision not to touch Facebook with a bargepole, but who’s curious about what 3Bn Facebook users actually do on it every month…
1) ‘Political’ Posts
Q: How should we deal with people who post ‘political’ views or questions in our Facebook …Notice Board or I Love … Groups?
It doesn’t take too long before some Notice Board/I Love… Facebook group members post ‘political’ thoughts or rants. Members often report them for ‘irrelevant content’.
See Through News encourages authentic political engagement, but also wants to keep its groups free from the toxic confrontational posts that annoy many members, especially those of Notice Boards.
This policy is designed to sort the trolls from the politically engaged. We use polite deterrence, avoiding public ding-dongs, while encouraging genuinely politically engaged members towards something more effective than online tit-for-tat. Far from being a ‘problem’, we can use ‘political’ posts to:
- publicly defuse this problem in a way that gives members confidence in their moderators
- inform members about other more ‘activist’ See Through News groups
- direct debate towards purpose, measurable carbon reduction
STEP 1: PUBLIC NUDGE
Initially approve non-abusive ‘political’ posts, but let them (and everyone else reading the comments) know via your Moderator comment that their post has strayed from the normal scope of the group. Something like this:
Dear [tag poster ], many thanks for your post, but if you check this Group’s About Description, it doesn’t strictly fall into the scope of this particular group.
If you’re interested in this kind of discussion, why not post in other groups better suited for political debate?
The exact wording here depends on the post’s content, but the more specifically you reference what they’ve said, the more you demonstrate you’ve taken them seriously.
- *If you’re interested in talking about local politics, post in your local See Through Group [e.g. See Through Salisbury]
- *If your concern is related to county/ regional/ national issues, post in See Through Wiltshire, See Through South West, or See Through Britain respectively.
- *If your concern is a broader matter of politics in general, there’s See Through Politics
- *If your concern is related to a specific policy area, why not post in specialist topic groups like [insert appropriate Topic Group, like See Through Transport, See Through Education, See Through Building, See Through Energy etc. – after checking they exist!]
Fortunately, See Through News now has many such groups to offer anyone who’s genuinely interested in political debate, as opposed to winding people up.
This should sort out most of the Facebook trolls from the genuinely engaged by politely putting the ball back in their court, without directly disagreeing with them and offering them a target to swing at.
The tone should be ‘it’s good to discuss such things, let us help you find the best place to say them’.
STEP 2: PRIVATE NUDGE
If posters ignore the polite and helpful suggestion included in your Step 1 comment, stop approving their posts.
When declining their posts, continue to make the same suggestions via the ‘Delete with Feedback’ option. This should rapidly deter any trolls, but if not…
STEP 3: BLANKING/BANNING
If they ignore a couple of Step 2 responses, don’t bother replying and simply remove their posts without feedback. By now they’ll know why, and we’ve given them a fair chance.
In the unlikely event of them persisting beyond this, they’re clearly just out to wind people up, so just block them altogether.
2) Local Newspaper Posts
Q: How should I deal with posts made in our Facebook Groups by reporters for corporate owned local newspapers?
Public Facebook groups like Notice Boards have much bigger audiences than the Facebook Pages of local newspapers.
In search of eyeballs, corporate-owned local news sources – in the UK, Newsquest/Archant, Reach/National World, Tindle & Iliffe – instruct their reporters to post their articles in big groups under their personal profiles.
These reporters are relatively easy to spot. Some clues:
- Few other members regularly post articles from local news sources and nothing else
- If you click on their profiles, most of them state their employer
- Their byline is often on the articles they post
This a bad thing because:
- It’s fundamentally dishonest. Reporters are posing as regular members, and not making their affiliation clear.
- 90% of the UK’s remaining local news sources are now owned by 4 corporate agglomerators, who have turned them into advertising platforms masquerading as ethical journalism (see the See Through Newspaper Review Project for more details).
Rather than simply deleting their posts, this is an opportunity to bring this issue to our members’ attention. We suggest the following.
Research your local news sources: are they one of the 90% that are corporate-owned, or the 10% that are independent? Corporates tend not to advertise their ownership, so it’s not always easy or quick to spot. Ask us if you’re not sure.
You’ll soon get to know the local reporters’ names – these days, there aren’t many of them.
- If they’re from a corporate-owned title, approve the post but always add this as the first comment:
Thank you for your post.
Members should be aware that this was posted by an employee of [insert name of local news source].
[local news source] is owned by [insert name of corporate agglomerator].
[corporate agglomerator] is one of the 4 corporate agglomerators that now own 90% of Britain’s remaining local news titles.
For more details, see @See Through News Newspaper Review Project
Be careful not to make your comments personal. Reporters are usually the most junior staff, hired straight out of uni, being told to do unethical things by their corporate employers. They often don’t last long, so expect the names to change every few months.
For more details, see The See Through News Newspaper Review Project.
- If they’re from an independent news source, approve the post and always add this as a first comment:
Thank you [tag poster’s name] for your post.
[insert name of their independent local news source employer] is one of Britain’s few remaining independently-owned local news titles.
90% are owned by 4 corporate agglomerators, like [insert owner of local corporate-owned competition], which owns [insert name of local corporate-owned title].
For more details, see @See Through News Newspaper Review Project
Q: How can we use Facebook’s Poll tool to improve our groups?
Facebook groups need clear rules. We have our own idea of what makes a harmonious, useful community notice board. It helps to outline them in the description, and even to formally list them in Group Rules, which can include such things as:
Original posts only please
no personal attacks
no unsourced references to crimes
keep your content relevant
don’t repeat the text of your attached article in your introduction
But it’s hard to be comprehensive, and few people actually read or adhere to the Rules.
Facebook provides group Admins with a very user-friendly Poll tool, which provides a good way to:
- Establish group consensus
- Demonstrate the group admins/moderators are considerate, democratic and listening
- Engage members to contribute to their community group
Common topics for polls are:
- Do group members want to approve posts of a religious nature? (Example)
- Do group members want to permit ‘political’ posts?
- What policy do group members want for job and business ads? (Example)
If you’d like such a poll in your group, contact the Admins and we’ll arrange one.
4) Local Job/Business Ads
Q: How do we decide which local jobs or business ads to approve/decline in our Facebook Groups?
Scammers, spammers or dodgy dealers often post ads for local services or jobs that are very vague, or sound too good to be true.
These are usually quite easy to spot, but what constitutes ‘fair’ is often a source of Facebook group tension or contention.
A poll in your group (see above) is a good way of establishing consensus, but when given options, most groups favour the following policy.
1) BUSINESS AND JOB ADS MUST INCLUDED LOCAL CONTACT DETAILS
2) THEY MUST BE FROM ESTABLISHED LOCAL PROFILES
5) Same Place Name, Different Country
Q: What do I do when people from the US, Australia, South Africa etc. post in the wrong Facebook group of the same name?
One unanticipated consequence of the British Empire has been confusion in Facebook Groups.
Unimaginative, brown-nosing or homesick colonialists named their New World homes after familiar Old World places.
The confusion created has resulted in people from Morningside, Johannesburg posting ads for rooftop solar installation in Edinburgh groups, and people in Horsham, Victoria, trying to sell air-conditioners to people in Sussex.
This causes some amusement, but mostly frustration to all parties.
As See Through News is rolling out its Facebook network globally, such mis-postings are a great opportunity. They signal an unmet demand for such a group elsewhere in the world, which we can then meet by setting up another group there. Dealing with such confusion decisively, with good humour and positive approach, also signals to group members they’re in safe hands when it comes to their moderators.
If you get a misplaced post:
STEP 1: ALERT GROUP ADMIN – we’ll set up another Notice Board group to which you can refer people who’ve strayed into the wrong group.
STEP 2: WRITE A CLARIFYING COMMENT (Example)
6) One Place, Two Notice Boards
Q: What do I do when people post asking why there are two Facebook Notice Boards of the same name?
Nearly everywhere has a local Notice Board group performing similar functions, even though they’ve not claimed the actual Facebook handle. Many of them are well established, with large memberships.
Some of these existing Notice Boards are set up as private groups, some are public. Some are run by well-intentioned community-minded volunteers, others are set up by local businesses with a view to promoting their own services, or monetising ad revenue.
This understandably causes confusion, and before long someone usually posts to ask what’s going on.
As always, to respond in a clear, friendly and transparent way.
If you get a misplaced post:
STEP 1: ALERT GROUP ADMIN
It’s useful for us to be aware of any overlaps
STEP 2: GIVE A CLEAR ANSWER
In the comments, provide a clear, transparent answer that acknowledges the existence of another group, and without criticising them, give one or two clear reasons why the STN one is different (and by inference, better). This could include:
- being a public and not a private group, enabling a bigger reach for your post
- moderated by local residents, not local businesses
- having specific, unique services not available in other groups (TBC – watch this space)
Happy Facebook Moderating!
We hope these FAQs help maintain vibrant, useful, pleasant, fact-based local Facebook groups.
By being useful and positive in their own right, they will support See Through News’s broader purpose.
- perform a valuable local function to bring people together in a common purpose
- abide by our strapline of ‘Fun. Friendly. Factful.’
- thereby access a broader reach of Unwilling Inactivists for us to point towards effective climate action