Amanda van Keimpema, a resident of the rural Queensland town of Cacanungra, has been working 16 hours a day for a week because of a bushfire near by late September,media buzzFeed News reported. She paused her affair and spent her time spreading safety information with emergency services, local newspapers and community members. After the danger in the area receded, van Keimpema realized he was exhausted and began recruiting people to help her.
Based on her actions, you might think of van Keimpema as a volunteer coordinator, or perhaps a member of the local council. But in fact, she’s the administrator of the Canungra community, a private group on Facebook with more than 3,600 members from nearby areas.
Although groups are not unique to Facebook – companies like NextDoor are all building their businesses through location-based social networks – the social media giant’s global monthly active users of nearly 2.5 billion, meaning it is most likely to find such groups in those places.
Local Facebook groups are increasingly acting as local town squares, classification departments, Neighborhood Watch and emergency information centers. But, for the most part, they are run by volunteers, who spend a lot of time in 2019 figuring out how to enforce the rules, resolve disputes and avoid prosecution in the process.
Several administrators interviewed by BuzzFeed News said they spent more than two hours a week managing community groups. Time tends to increase when natural emergencies occur in the region, and these events are becoming more common in Australia.
“At the moment, we’re having water problems that lead to a spike in joining,” van Keimpema told BuzzFeed News. Canungra has only 400 people, but every time an environmental problem occurs, we attract a lot of people to join us. “
Tarang Bates is the founder of The Open Social Group of Facebook, Nimbin Hook Ups, whose members are mainly from small towns on the east coast of New South Wales and are known for their hippies and alternative lifestyles. Bates spends at least an hour a day hosting discussions and filtering profiles.
Bates told BuzzFeed News: “There are a lot of people who want to join because of the recent forest fires. This should have been a local group. There are a lot of people trying to join in and say ‘we’re moving here’ or ‘We have a friend there’. It takes time to move your profile to where they actually live. “
Bates used to spend time deleting posts that violated group rules, but developed methods for classifying work. In the nine years since the group was founded, Bates has set up a derivative steamgroup network – Nimbin Hook Ups Discussion Group, Nimbin Hook Ups Buy Trading and Barter Trading, and Nimbin Hook Ups – Trading and Services.
Bec Connor is the manager of Stockton Community, a coastal community Facebook group with nearly 3,800 members. Connor is also a former community planner with community consulting experience. She was dismayed that Facebook had not provided more guidance on creating healthy communities, but had only provided technical guidance on using the group and had issued some basic group rules.
“Facebook has rules about ‘kind, polite and hateful statements,'” says Connor. But it was a really wrong attempt. There is no kit. “
Most community groups develop their own unique set of rules. Some, such as “no abuse”, are quite common, but other rules can become very specific, even strange. In van Keimpema’s group, it is forbidden to talk about people driving at slow speed because it causes too many fights. Bates allows the debate about “vaccine options”, but strictly only in discussion groups.
Of course, not all people always follow the rules. Each administrator interviewed stressed that they had been subjected to abuse because of their position.
Unlike online communities where other members can spread around the world, nearby Facebook groups are concentrated in one place, often leading to online tensions spreading to the offline world. Administrators are told that team members are frustrated with the decision to boycott their business, and even the threat of physical attacks to find them.
Fear of prosecution is common among administrators. The difference between opinions and potentially defamatory statements can be difficult to determine, especially for people who have not been trained in the law. The discussions in these groups covered gossip, crime, heated debates on local issues and comments on local businesses. Most administrators said they had mistakenly deleted posts they followed.
The Facebook group added a new dimension to Neighbor Watch. Any member can alert crime and suspicious activity in its vicinity and cover hundreds or even thousands of people in just a few minutes.
None of the administrators said they had been prosecuted, and most said that the disgruntled group members had at least asked their questions. They also heard about legal disputes in other groups. Van Keimpema said: “There was an accident and people were dismissive of the principal of a local school in a nearby suburb and he is now suing. “
Even without lawyers, there are concerns about the quality of information provided by these people, especially as local newspapers slide and disappear.
A team administrator said they had a relationship with a local newspaper and that the publication’s sole reporter would “fact check” the group by reporting any posts that contained incorrect information. Other administrators said they would delete all posts that were not charged. Some say they simply rely on the community to refute any untrue posts.
So why… For all this trouble? Administrators agree that their motivation for running groups is to benefit their communities, noting that groups are important sources of information and event planning spaces. They think it’s worth the effort.
“I think it reflects our community and dialogue in Nimbin. People often say, ‘I really like to read and see how everyone relates to each other,'” says Bates. “It’s a good thing for the community. I can’t imagine what would have happened without this. “