Facebook reportedly shut down an anonymous internal discussion forum last year due to toxic and harassing messages between its employees. The forum, called FB Anon, was closed in December, sources with knowledge of the move said on Wednesday. Facebook staffer Lori Goler said that the group was shut down because it violated Facebook's rules about using an authentic identity for your account, while CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that the forum was home to harassing messages. According to reports, the forum became severely polarized in the wake of Donald Trump's presidential candidacy and those backing his political platform eventually became the majority of the forum's user base. Not only did the forum skew away from Facebook's traditionally balanced and open values, but conversations within it commonly devolved into slurs and inflammatory speech, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Facebook's internal woes can be seen on a larger scale with the public-facing service, and the company's issues with walking a fine line between allowing hate speech and fake news to run rampant and needlessly censoring individual thoughts or even suppressing divergent opinions. While Facebook has been cracking down on objective hate speech, the company has been facing pressure to come down even harder on those who propagate inflammatory speech. With an audience of two billion and counting, the sheer pressure about how to deal with hate speech that Facebook is getting on all sides is perhaps only rivaled by the same pressure on Alphabet, who has to try to police trillions of search results, and was recently at the center of a diversity and values dissonance scandal that ended up costing James Damore, the engineer at the center of it all, his job.
The issues with FB Anon are not uncommon, and follow a few different tropes that could help explain the saga. The forum's transformation and eventual takedown came as political tensions mounted during the United States Presidential Election last year, which helped polarize a number of social environments. FB Anon was also an anonymous forum for Facebook employees, allowing them to speak their minds and vent their frustrations, with little to no fear of any consequences. Traditionally, such communities are more susceptible to overall toxicity than communities where everybody's words and actions are tied to their identities.