[tweetmeme] Facebook revamped their Groups feature this week, but the jury is still out on whether this is an improvement or not. A couple of advantages this new incarnation has are the ability to chat with members of your group, and send them emails using a dedicated Facebook email address. (You can learn more about how to set up Facebook groups from this PC World article: New Facebook Groups: 5 Key Facts)
Group Invitation = Automatic Acceptance
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that the new Groups were developed to combat “the biggest problem in social media”: sharing everything with everyone, when you really only want to share something with select people. ” ‘Just friends’ was the most private setting,” Zuckerberg said. “But you might not want to share something with hundreds or even thousands of friends.”
One quirk of the new Groups is the fact when a friend invites you to join, you’re automatically in the group. If you don’t want to be in it, you have to opt-out after the fact. I can sort of see the appeal to this. It feeds your ego to be automatically allowed into a group, based on a friend’s invitation.
Wait a minute. Is that why Groups have been set up this way? Does Zuckerberg’s ego need stroking? If you’ve seen “The Social Network,” the film suggests that the reason Zuckerberg came up with Facebook is because he couldn’t get into some exclusive groups at Harvard!
Imagine if Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin had been able to invite Zuckerberg to join Harvard’s exclusive Phoenix Club, after Saverin won admittance to it. Could a multi-million dollar lawsuit have been avoided?
Group Opt-In Recommended, Instead of Just Opt-Out
Maybe or maybe not. Regardless, being automatically included in a group may not be the greatest idea. According to PC World, TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington and tech entrepreneur Jason Calacanis were added to a new Facebook Group called NAMBLA– an acronym for the North American Man/Boy Love Association. Arrington later added Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to the group.
Even though the NAMBLA group was clearly a joke, Calacanis wasn’t laughing. He fired off an e-mail to Zuckerberg, also posted on Calacanis’ blog, arguing that people should have the ability to opt-in to new groups and not only opt-out.
When Arrington added Zuckerberg to the NAMBLA joke group, the Facebook CEO unsubscribed. Not only did that keep Zuckerberg out of NAMBLA, but it also blocked Arrington from ever adding Zuckerberg to another group.
I love the irony of this. As my mother used to say, “Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.”
Automatic Acceptance = Potential for Harm?
While Arrington probably thought this NAMBLA stunt was harmless fun, there is the potential for serious abuse here.
Let’s face it. Most of us don’t personally know all of our friends on Facebook, even if we should. Many of these people are “friends of friends.” What if one of them decides to form a group espousing racist beliefs and then invites you to join? You can opt out, but the notice that you’ve joined the group still shows up on your wall. And if you don’t check your profile frequently, it could be there for hours before you can take it down. That could be extremely harmful to your reputation.
What do you think of the opt-in vs. opt-out strategy for Facebook Groups? Do you think Facebook will be forced to make some changes soon? Or am I worrying too much?