Invigilator
Apr 20, 2017 · 7 min read

The rules are changing and group admins have no say in the matter

Each Facebook Group admin has always had the right to set their own rules about what can be posted in their groups. While group admins and members have always had to follow Facebook’s Community Standards and Terms of Service, they could choose a theme, such as cars, garage sale items, even pets and livestock. They could form a group for businesses listing services available or limit the posts in their group to discussions only.

By 2014, Facebook was host to over 640 million groups, and, while they had ways to generate revenue from almost everything we do when we log onto Facebook, groups had grown into a major part of the everyday lives of Facebook users, with little monetary return for them. Aside from throwing a few sponsored ads in the group feeds, nothing had been done to milk this potential cash cow.

Bring in the Selling Features

In February 2015, Facebook began to roll out new features for Buy & Sell Groups. At first, admins got the choice to opt-in to the Selling tools, but over time the “Sell Something” feature and all the tools that went along with it, became available to members no matter what type of group it was.

Other tools that came along with the Sell Something feature included the ability to mark an item as sold. A feature not really wanted by many of the garage sale group admins who’s rules required sold items to be deleted. The sold feature did little for the average person selling their couch, but was a welcome tool for small home-based businesses who preferred potential buyers be able to view some of their sold inventory.

Another key aspect for Facebook was the forced location in your selling posts. Even users who had their hometown not available to the public in their personal profile, saw the feature supplying that information in the post. Because these groups tended to be regional and comprised of a membership that had been diligently screened by prudent admins, users weren’t alarmed by this because they were comfortable with sharing their location in the groups they joined.

Over the next year and half, Facebook worked out bugs, added more features, changed how the features worked, until they got it how they wanted it. They had turned Buy & Sell groups, along with any other type of group that allowed it’s members to use the sell feature, into an inventory of millions of ads to capitalize on.

Time For The Harvest

In October 2016, Facebook introduced the Marketplace. With lofty goals of taking on and conquering the powerhouses like Craigslist and eBay, it was time to reap the bounty of their work to fine tune groups into a revenue cash flow. Every sale post was now going to be the content for their Marketplace, a venue they would be able to gain revenue from by offering paid promotions, feature ads and all the other revenue sources used by their competitors.

But There Was A Catch…

You see, these millions of groups where all different. Many were not about tangible things like cars, furniture and books for sale. The Marketplace had it’s own set of rules, no prohibited things like guns and drugs, no intangible things like services and digital downloads. New rules were even added (even though claimed to be in existence prior and not announced to the average user) like no animals for sale. The commerce policy went from 10 policy rules to 12 with the addition of no animals for sale and no services nor intangible items, with the latter being only applying to Marketplace.

In order to screen out things from the groups that they didn’t want on Marketplace, Facebook scrambled to write new algorithms to get rid of all the things they didn’t want. They solicited special interest groups to aid them, particularly in the area of animal sales and animal services, such as stud services and coaching posts, by encouraging them to report these posts and providing a new option “this is an animal for sale” in the report feature of every sale post.

Buy Posting Your Table For Sale, You Have Now Agreed To Follow Facebook’s Commerce Rules, Even Though You Are Not A Business and you may have no idea how to even find the Commerce Policy.

Opting Out of Marketplace

Not as easy as you would think it should be.

Rather than offer a new group type that does not feed to Marketplace or giving users the choice to opt out of it altogether, Facebook provides a little checkbox for opting in with each post you make. If you post in a public group the box is automatically pre-checked for you. If you post in a closed or secret group you are supposed to manually check the box yourself. Unfortunately, like so many other things that don’t work the way they are supposed to on Facebook, that isn’t always the case.

Most people have tried to get around this buy using posting as a discussion. Unfortunately Facebook has caught on and when you hit post, if their algorithms detect things like “for sale” or a price, it will automatically convert your post to a sale post, include your location and show no option to opt out of Marketplace. You can go to the pull down menu and easily change it back to a discussion post, though many users are not aware of that.

Ignorance of the Rules is no Excuse

In one fell swoop, Facebook has applied Commerce rules to users who had only agreed to regular user rules. Ignorance of this change is no excuse and users are being banned, suspended and placed in Facebook jail for posting on a part of Facebook they had no idea operates with a new set of rules, but many aren’t even aware of the existence of the Marketplace. In fact, the Marketplace their posts are being fed to, may not even be available to them. A portion of users in the USA can’t even access Marketplace. Many have been banned from Marketplace for posting something that does not break the rules they have adhered to, but break the Commerce rules, such as services. However, even though they are banned just from Marketplace, Facebook still feeds their group posts to the venue. Total strangers can see there ad and their profile and even rate them bad for not responding to or reject message requests and they have no control over it, except to delete their group posts, if they haven’t been banned from that too.

So What Can You Post in Groups Now?

Technically, you can post in groups any things that do not go against the Community Standards and Terms of Service,

Realistically, you can post the things that are described in the above links except items found in the Commerce Policy as prohibited(even though it is not linked to from the Community Standards nor the Terms of Service or referenced as part of the “I understand..” you never read)

Post for a book rejected based on violating policy

Animals for sale are not permitted anywhere on Facebook

However, the masses of rejected posts and suspended or restricted users shows the ban on sales is not the only restriction you can be punished by Facebook for posting, even though there are no rules about some, not even in the secret commerce policy.

Here is a list of just a few of the things Facebook has rejected as posts, or has been stated by Facebook as not allowed and targeted for rejection, in Groups;

  • animals for sale, and ISO (wanted) posts for animals
  • animals for adoption by legitimate rescue groups
  • services related to breeding, such as stud services
  • Tack, equipment and supplies related to animals, such as saddles, carts, and other similar items
  • services to animal owners such as trainers, coaches, and even photography
  • ANY non tangible items, such as services or digital downloads**

**Of note to the admins and members of business support groups (ie “advertise your local business’ groups)

Some say the things like books and saddles are just collateral damage in a poorly written and implemented algorithm, but we won’t know until Facebook responds and tells us just what they have done to our groups.

Further reading…

Seriously You’re making My Head Hurt

I never cease being dumbfounded by the unbelievable things people believe

Invigilator

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Watching the world

Seriously You’re making My Head Hurt

I never cease being dumbfounded by the unbelievable things people believe

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