Should so-called “secret” groups on Facebook be more closely monitored, or possibly discontinued altogether?
Following my own experience with a secret Facebook group, and taking into account experiences of others I know, and additional reports that can be found online, I seriously question whether the setting should be an option at all. Facebook also offers both public and closed or private groups, and one of these should, I feel, meet the requirements of most users.
A public Facebook group is one in which content can be viewed by anyone on Facebook, whether a member or not.
Posts often appear in the newsfeed of members’ friends and families, and I believe that non-members have the facility to “like”, or “react” to, such posts, but not to add a comment.
In a closed or private group, non-members do not see any of the posts.
What they can do, however, is learn, via search, that the group exists, and request to join. Admins can accept or decline such requests. As with any group, they can remove members who violate the terms and conditions.
Secret groups share many features with closed ones, such as the privacy of posts, but they take it to the next level.
They cannot be found via Facebook’s search facilities. A member’s friends and family, unless members themselves, would not be able to see that the person was in this group. A secret Facebook group is literally “invisible”, in all respects, to non-members. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that this could easily be abused – and, in many cases, it appears that it has been.
I can certainly think of possible legitimate uses for secret groups, but am currently far from convinced that these are sufficient to justify their existence.
The potential good does not seem, to me, to outweigh the negative aspects, and very real dangers. I know that online course providers sometimes use secret groups, but could they not use private ones instead? They would have to decline people who had found the group via search, and weren’t entitled to membership, but that is a minor inconvenience. The secret setting might also be used by families and friends to share, for example, photos of a couple’s wedding. Yet, there are many other, and probably more suitable, ways to achieve this online. In any case, would huge quantities of random people realistically be discovering, and requesting membership of, “John and Jenny’s Wedding Photos”? And, again, the admins could easily decline any such requests.
In my opinion, the various options of public (“fan”/business) pages, public groups and closed or private ones, are sufficient.
If Facebook intend to retain the option of secrecy, they do need to start monitoring these groups much more closely.
I myself have three public Facebook pages, and two private groups.
My groups will always be private: neither public nor secret. It does bother me somewhat that many admins are continually adjusting the settings, meaning that members don’t know where they stand.
You can find me on social media, via this post, which provides details of my Facebook pages and groups, as well as links to my Twitter, Tumblr, Google Plus, Instagram, Flickr, and Pinterest profiles.