“These are the authentic spaces that people are really engaging in right now. … This is a huge vector for the spread of disinformation.”
If you grew up in or have lived in Mass for more than 20 minutes, chances are you currently belong to or have been banned from a Facebook group centered around your hometown, current residence, or place you still like to nose around. Bedford’s Inner Circle. Pembroke Connect. Threw Up In Fall River. (Not only is that last one for real, but there are actually competing vomit-inducing groups, one of which appears to have spun off a webcast.)
What do all or at least most of these groups have in common? Is it that they’re fascinating portals into the municipalities for which they’re named? Awesome resources for small businesses? And virtual commons where residents past, present, and future share stories and recipes?
Of course not, snowflake!
They’re utter cesspools, the bottom of the bigot barrel, an after-hours sports pub full of maskless goons fueled on hatred and Hannity. Sometimes, the trolls and racists are in the minority; other times, they overwhelm and run the show; in all cases, they cross boundaries and shitpost and threaten and lurk.
But you know all of this, because you are cursed by a psychotic symphony of alerts and push notifications from your hometown’s despicable meme show.
These forums are extremely dangerous. As disinformation researcher Nina Jankowicz told CNN media guru Brian Stelter last week: “Bad actors can use Facebook groups. … Where people are gathered around a certain interest, where there is a higher level of trust, and as long as you’ve got somebody who has infiltrated those groups … it’s a very scary thing because these groups are closed and secret, meaning there has not been much monitoring going on, and they’re relying on researchers like me to sound the alarm bells.”
Which may explain why your cousin or old roommate is suddenly so goddamn unbearable on social media.
Jankowicz, who recently published the must-read article “Facebook Groups are Destroying America” in Wired, added, “I’m probably a lot more worried about [groups] than any sort of ‘fake news’ or troll accounts or ads purchased. These are the authentic spaces that people are really engaging in right now. … This is a huge vector for the spread of disinformation.”
The week before, Stelter noted in an interview with Facebook public relations guy Nick Clegg that while groups are growing in popularity, and the company is pushing them on users like trap cats in back-alley smack deals, journalists and outsiders can’t see inside of them to poke around. To which Clegg responded that we should all relax, because Facebook itself can watch every move, algorithmically of course.
Parallel to that debate, we decided to look around ourselves, and asked friends and readers to send screenshots to us of the most horrific posts on their town feeds. Below are some of the worst of the worst.
We’re not showing the affiliated names, as the point of this is not to shame individual imbeciles. These people are shameless anyway, and certainly they shame themselves and their families and places of employment with every putrid remark. Neither are we writing about this for pure shock value; though we respect the opinions of those who may say that such trash should be burned and not seen, our point is that this filth’s already being shared in semipublic spaces, and that more people need to understand how awful and ubiquitous it sadly is.
Finally, it’s not our place to criticize the lefties who spar with morons all day and night on Facebook. It doesn’t seem to be a shortcut on the path to justice, but maybe there is something we are missing. In any case, if you are that kind of masochistic progressive crusader, please take regular stock of your mental and physical health; after copying all of these rants from the screenshots that people submitted, we needed more than just a rest, shower, and nap to recover.