The report finds:

  1. People can experience a strong sense of community from membership in such groups
    despite the lack of physical proximity.
  2. Online groups are a still fluid form of human organization that in many cases attract
    members and leaders who are marginalized in the physical societies they inhabit, and
    who use the platform to build new kinds of community they could not form in real space.
  3. Many of these groups have counter-cultural norms and are what political scientists might
    call “cross-cleavage” communities. These groups cut across traditional social groupings,
    and bring together people normally divided by geography around a shared trait or interest.
  4. The flexible affordances of online platforms have enabled new kinds of leaders to emerge
    in these groups with unique skills in moderating often divisive dialogues, sometimes
    among millions of members.
  5. The leaders of many of these groups run them as a labor of love; they are neither trained
    nor paid, the rules that govern their internal operations are often uncodified, and the
    hosting platform – in this case Facebook – holds significant power over their operations
    and future.
  6. These groups, some of which have huge memberships, remain emergent and largely
    unrecognized: they are outside traditional power structures, institutions and forms of
    governance.
  7. More research is needed to understand whether and how these groups will operate as
    genuine communities over the long term, especially given the tensions that derive from
    conducting public life on a private platform such as Facebook, and how such groups and
    their leaders can be supported to ensure they provide maximum voice, participation and
    benefit to their members.
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