What was probably the biggest announcement at Facebook's conference two days ago was an overhaul to their Groups, including a group chat feature and e-mail list. There's a problem, though: Users can be added to groups by their Facebook friends without consent, an issue that saw Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg added to a group ostensibly for NAMBLA, the North American Man/Boy Love Association. Along with Zuckerberg, Mahalo founder Jason Calacanis and TechCrunch blogger Michael Arrington also would have appeared to have professed a sudden interest in young boys, thanks to pranksters on their (very long) friends lists. Deliberately shocking as the NAMBLA group may be, these additions highlight what's arguably a shortcoming of Facebook Groups: Any Facebook user can go ahead and add any other user to a Facebook Group without any consent on the other user's part so long as the two users are Facebook friends.
If you tuned into this afternoon's Facebook announcement hoping to hear wild and surprising things, you were bound to be disappointed. There was no Facebook phone, no triumphant videochat partnership with Skype -- even the new, Places-centric design teased by TechCrunch yesterday failed to materialize, though TC claims that "It seems Facebook may not roll out the new design today. It is definitely a part of the “Lockdown” (see below) which Zuckerberg talked about today, but it may not come for a few weeks. More to come…" The changes that were made were smaller and more subtle, and the announcement (which dragged on longer than it had to) honestly wasn't 'important' in proportion to the attention paid to it. That said, the three changes Facebook announced were all welcome, and seemed earnestly designed with user experience in mind.
A Facebook group implicitly calling for the death of President Barack Obama now has more than 1 million members who 'like' it, and there's no ban yet in sight, though there's a rival group petitioning Facebook to remove the anti-Obama group as offensive speech.
The anti-Obama group is called "DEAR LORD, THIS YEAR YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE ACTOR, PATRICK SWAYZIE. YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE ACTRESS, FARAH FAWCETT. YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE SINGER, MICHAEL JACKSON. I JUST WANTED TO LET YOU KNOW, MY FAVORITE PRESIDENT IS BARACK OBAMA. AMEN." This is likely a riff on a letter circulating New Jersey teachers' unions earlier this month that employed similar language with respect to (Republican) governor Chris Christie. The president of the New Jersey Education Association went on to issue a formal apology for the email.
While the members of the group might see it as a 'joke,' it seems to be calling for the death of a public figure in a pretty inflammatory way. Why hasn't Facebook taken action?
Given the state of Internet trolling, it was probably inevitable, but that doesn't make it any less disturbing: since the news this morning that Joseph Andrew Stack was the pilot of the small plane that crashed into the Echelon Building in Austin, Texas, which housed almost 200 IRS employees, a number of Facebook groups have sprouted up in praise of Stack. Among them: "Joseph Andrew Stack, we salute thee," "The Philosophy of Joe Stack," and "The Joe "Take My Pound Of Flesh" Stack Anti-IRS Fan Page."