Illustrations: Ricardo Santos

Jealousy, Rumors, and Suspicion: How Facebook Disaster Groups Turn On Themselves

The Paradise Fire Adopt a Family Facebook group had almost 30,000 members helping and seeking help. Then it imploded.

“In times of disaster or crisis, people turn to Facebook to check on loved ones and get updates.”

Questions emerged about the people behind the posts, about how resources were being allocated, and about the motivations of the group’s creators, who had no geographic or personal ties to the affected community.

He didn’t do any research on whether other groups already existed — at the time, he didn’t even know the name of the Camp Fire.

“We didn’t have the restrictions of the nonprofits because nonprofits are accountable.”

“They’d just rip each other to shreds on the internet.”

Photo courtesy of Victoria Sinclaire

“You have to kick a person out of the group because of how they’re behaving? Well, now you just created a hater.”

Facebook interactions also offer a response immediacy that is light-years ahead of traditional aid agencies.

Though the coronavirus groups are all relatively new, some already share traits that proved insurmountable for Paradise Fire Adopt a Family.

Colleen Hagerty is a freelance multimedia journalist specializing in disaster reporting. More at www.colleenhagerty.com.

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