Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Recent high-profile hate crimes are forcing technology companies to reassess how hate speech and harmful content manifests in closed groups online.

Why it matters: As communications become more closed off and private, experts worry that private group forums online may be festering hateful activity that could manifest itself in dangerous offline behavior.

Driving the news: Facebook said Wednesday that it would be simplifying its groups policy to make groups on its platform either "public" or "private" so that it's easier for group members to understand who can and cannot see their posts.

  • The setting update essentially makes it easier for group owners to see whether or not their posts are publicly accessible.
  • Last month, ProPublica reported that border patrol agents were joking about migrant deaths and posting sexist memes in a private Facebook group that had nearly 10,000 members. ProPublica was leaked the contents from the group page, which had been active for years.
  • Facebook says it has heard from users that they wanted more control over how their groups can be discovered.

Between the lines: Facebook isn't the only platform to struggle with closed-off groups that spew hateful rhetoric.

  • Redditquarantined” one of its biggest pro-Trump groups in June over violent threats being posted by group members. Quarantining groups means that the groups can remain on the platform, but they can't earn revenue and visitors to the groups have to opt-in to viewing the content after receiving a warning message about it.
  • 8chan, the anonymous message board that often hosts conspiracy theories and hate speech, is under pressure from lawmakers, activists and even its own creator to crack down on forums that serve as a breeding ground for hate speech. On Wednesday, the House Homeland Security Committee issued a bipartisan subpoena to 8chan's owner, Jim Watkins, to understand what's being done to counter extremism on the platform.

Be smart: Facebook, Reddit and other forums are reluctant to ban or take down specific groups because they don't want to infringe on free speech rights. Instead, most take steps to demote groups, making them hard to find, or to remove incentives for posting incendiary content.

The bottom line: Monitoring hate speech, even on mainstream social sites, is proving to be difficult in a world that's growing increasingly privacy-centric.

Go deeper: Privacy concerns push people to private, group-based platforms

Go deeper

20 mins ago - World

Scoop: Secret Israel-Sudan contacts paved the way for deal sealed by Trump

Trump on the phone with the leaders of Sudan and Israel. Photo: Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty

While the U.S. officially brokered the Israel-Sudan normalization deal, it was Israel that facilitated talks between the U.S. and Sudan on the broader deal that included Sudan’s removal from America’s state sponsors of terrorism list.

Why it matters: Israel’s secret contacts with Sudanese officials paved the way for a deal that was nearly a year in the making.

Updated 21 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Politics: Biden ahead in Wisconsin, Michigan as cases surge in the Midwest.
  2. Health: Surge "is real" and not just caused by more tests, Trump's testing czar saysMask mandates help control the rise in hospitalizations.
  3. Business: Surge is sinking consumer confidence Testing is a windfall.
  4. Media: Pandemic causes TV providers to lose the most subscribers ever.
  5. World: Putin mandates face masks.
44 mins ago - Health

Trump's testing czar: COVID surge "is real" and not just caused by more tests

Assistant Secretary of Health Adm. Brett Giroir, who leads the federal government's coronavirus testing response, pushed back on Wednesday against President Trump's continued claims that rising coronavirus cases are a product of increased testing.

The big picture: Every available piece of data shows that the pandemic is getting worse again across the country. Hospitalizations are on the rise — and some hospitals are warning that they could soon be overwhelmed — while 13 states set new highs last week for coronavirus infections recorded in a single day.

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