You can’t be anonymous on Facebook. Well, you’re really not supposed to be, anyway. If the platform finds out you’re using a fake name or a borrowed identity, it will shut down your account. Anonymous identities, as Facebook well knows, are often an invitation for harassment because of the perceived lack of consequences. Which is why it’s not surprising to hear the company shut down an internal discussion group, Facebook Anon, following employee harassment surrounding the 2016 election.
The group was founded by several employees back in May of 2015, Business Insider reports. Topics ranged from the benign — stealing cafeteria food — to more controversial topics like a staffer crossing out “Black Lives Matter” on the company’s infamous wall and writing “All Lives Matter.” Discussions in the group were, as the name implies, anonymous. As the 2016 election heated up, so too did the discussions on Facebook Anon. The group put up “Trump Supporters Welcome” posters. Several weeks after Trump was elected, Zuckerberg announced in a company meeting that the group would be shuttered. “Zuckerberg explained that the forum had been used by employees to harass people and stressed that the behavior wouldn’t be tolerated, according to people in attendance,” BI reports. Posters reading “Facebook Anon: Silenced, but not silent” popped up on Facebook’s campus shortly thereafter.
From Facebook via BI:
The FB Anon internal Facebook group violated our Terms of Service, which require people who use Facebook (including our employees) to use an authentic identity on our platform. Last year we disabled any anonymous internal groups or pages within Facebook, and reminded our people of the places at our company where they can have discussions about issues that matter to them, openly or confidentially as appropriate.
Facebook’s whole (new) thing is groups. At least, that’s what the company told everybody when it rewrote its mission statement earlier this year, to “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” The announcement also came with new suite tools for group moderators. Facebook is hoping that by creating smaller community spaces, people will feel safer posting and sharing and getting involved. Those people, even within those smaller spaces, will not be permitted to be anonymous. If they were, I imagine Facebook’s new groups, sorry “community,” push would go down the exact same way as Facebook Anon. Perhaps instead of anonymously harassing each other over politics in an internal Facebook group, employees could just write ten-page memos laying out their opinions in full. Seems to have worked out really well for James Damore over at Google.