Facebook Groups will play a big role.
Mark Zuckerberg has a new mission statement for Facebook, as his company looks to move beyond only connecting individual “friends” in order to bring more groups of people together “to build community.”
That’s what the Facebook co-founder and CEO said at his company’s first Communities Summit in Chicago on Thursday. As part of that event, Facebook introduced new features for Facebook Groups aimed at helping group moderators boost engagement and membership. Zuckerberg hopes to eventually have 1 billion people involved in “meaningful groups” on the social network, which currently boasts just under 2 billion total monthly users. That push is a centerpiece of the new Facebook mission statement that Zuckerberg unveiled on Thursday: “Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”
In an exclusive interview with CNN, Zuckerberg said he realizes that Facebook needs to do more than just connect people. “It’s important to give people a voice, to get a diversity of opinions out there, but on top of that, you also need to do this work of building common ground so that way we can all move forward together,” the CEO said.
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Facebook is looking to improve the experience of group membership on the massive social network at a time when the company is coming to grips with being as much of a media empire as a tech giant—hence the new mission statement.
That’s why Zuckerberg introduced new features such as Group Insights, a tool that provides group administrators with real-time metrics allowing them to track membership growth and engagement, including which members are writing the most posts. The new features will also make it easier for group admins to filter new member requests and to police activity in the groups by removing “bad actor” members along with their posts when necessary. The tools are meant to give group moderators more freedom to keep spam posts and hate speech out of group communications, while also ensuring that members stay focused on the communal topic or issue.
While there are already more than 1 billion members of groups on Facebook, Zuckerberg says only 100 million of those users are currently in what he calls “meaningful groups,” which are online communities that play somewhat significant roles in the lives of their members. He told CNN that number can reach 1 billion within “five years or so,” and the company even highlighted a few specific groups in its announcement on Thursday, including a group called Affected by Addiction Support Group for people recovering from drug and alcohol addiction to share their experiences, as well as a group of women motorcyclists in California who connect online and ride together in real life.
As Facebook continues to exhibit rapid growth—with nearly 2 billion monthly active users and $8 billion in quarterly revenue—the company has faced plenty of criticism over the past year related to the proliferation of false news stories being shared on the website, as well as the presence of hate speech and extremist groups. Facebook has stepped up fact-checking efforts, and Zuckerberg says it is important that the social network brings together groups of like-minded people who are encouraged to exercise their freedom of speech — even if some of the content is disagreeable to some people — but those interactions need to stop short of hate speech or bullying.