March 2, 2024

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Facebook doubles down on groups amid coronavirus pandemic


More than 1.8 billion people use Facebook groups every month. 

Image by Pixabay/Illustration by CNET

Facebook is ramping up its efforts to get more of its users to use groups, an online space where people gather to chat about a certain topic, during the coronavirus pandemic.

On Thursday, the world’s largest social network announced new features aimed at making it easier for people to chat in groups. People who run a Facebook group will be able to host question-and-answer sessions or share a photo about a particular topic and swipe through people’s responses as part of a feature called Prompts. Another tool will allow group administrators to reject posts with certain keywords or from new members.

Facebook is also testing ways for people to find public groups on and off the social network. The company said it will show public group discussions in News Feed and in other places outside of Facebook such as in search results.


Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says more people are turning to groups during the coronavirus pandemic.

Screenshot by Queenie Wong/CNET

Facebook has been doubling down on groups as more people shift to private spaces to share their thoughts instead of posting publicly. More than 1.8 billion people use Facebook groups every month. The rising popularity of groups, which can be public or private, has been a double-edged sword for the social network. On one hand, groups can be used to bring people together who are passionate about topics like birding, parenting or hiking. At the same time, people have also been using groups to spread misinformation about vaccines and push far-right conspiracy theories such as QAnon. 

“COVID has meant that a lot more of our communities have shifted online and for many of us, Facebook groups have been an important space to find support, sharing information, or just be entertained,” said Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg during the company’s Communities Summit on Thursday. The summit was live streamed on Facebook and more than 26,000 people were watching the keynote at one point. 

People have been using Facebook groups to share remote learning tips or encourage social distancing during the pandemic. One group that Zuckerberg said has helped him through the early days of quarantine brings people together to sing at a safe distance.

Zuckerberg didn’t address the downsides of Facebook Groups in his brief remarks, but Fidji Simo, who oversees the Facebook App, pointed out during the virtual event that the company has been investing in more safety features for groups. The company has taken down more than 1 million groups over the last year for violating its rules.

“We know that there’s more work to be done but we are committed to ensuring everyone has a safe experience on Facebook,” she said.

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