ABUSE: “Wayfarer - Global Reviewers” Facebook group admins are engaging in a disinformation campaign

AisforAndis-INGAisforAndis-ING Posts: 856 ✭✭✭✭✭

Hello, before I get started, I want to share the objective of this post, because it is going to be very long. This is not a ”drama” or “callout” thread. The purpose of the information provided is to show that the admins of the “Wayfarer - Global Reviewers” Facebook group have collectively broken the following rules from Niantic’s Terms of Service:

(Note: I have broken down the key points into layman’s terms below, but I still recommend reading these relevant excerpts, as at the end of the day, the rules are in Niantic’s words, not mine)




In layman's terms the key points from these excerpts are below:

  • Section 5: “User Content” consists of any content that a user provides to Niantic to utilize for their games and services, aka, your Pokestop/Portal/Wayspot submissions are a form of “User Content”.
  • Section 5.2: When providing Niantic with “User Content” (submitting wayspots), you are granting Niantic an extremely wide variety of rights on how they may utilize and control that content, and in order to grant Niantic these rights, you agree that you are legally capable of granting Niantic these rights, and therefore the content is free of anything that may infringe upon the copyrights or intellectual property of a third party. Effectively, this means the content that you are submitting (namely photos and descriptions) must be original and not taken from a third-party source (Niantic is the first party, you are the second party, anyone else is a third party)
  • Section 6: When submitting “User Content” (submitting wayspots), you are effectively agreeing to follow the same stipulations from Section 5.2, and in addition, you also agree that you will not encourage or enable anyone else to engage in behavior that would violate these rules. Furthermore, engaging in any actions that interfere with the operation of Niantic’s services (such as Wayfarer), including manipulating or undermining a service’s proper operations (such as a disinformation campaign), is a direct violation of Niantic’s Terms of Service. 

In summary, there are rules and restrictions regarding the content that you include in your wayspot submissions. Not following these rules violates Niantic’s Terms of Service. Encouraging others to not follow these rules is a violation of the Terms of Service. Any attempt to undermine or disrupt the intended operations or a service such as Wayfarer is an explicit violation of the Terms of Service.


The Incident

Several days ago, an Admin of the “Wayfarer - Global Reviewers” Facebook group shared a photo of a newly painted mural they had discovered. The mural was beautiful, and presumably would meet Niantic’s eligibility and acceptance criteria. The admin expressed their intention to submit this mural


A couple of days after this, another user ended up reviewing this nomination, and shared the submitted nomination to the group. This user pointed out that the nomination’s description was a direct quote from a third party website, thus meeting Niantic’s Rejection Criteria, and violating both the Content Guidelines and Niantic’s Terms of Service.


The majority of users who commented on the topic, including the admin who had originally shared and submitted the mural, incorrectly argued in favor of the mural’s acceptance, claiming that the description was fine. The admin quickly chimed in to share their reasoning that they have seen plenty of similarly quoted descriptions already in the game already, but later offered additional arguments such as “Do you really think Niantic wants official titles but not official descriptions”, and “My partner’s a lawyer and would point out that typing it yourself is not a copy and paste”. The faulty reasonings for accepting the mural among the general commenters ranged from people just misunderstanding or misinterpreting the guidelines, people arguing that the third-party website was not actually a third party, that the photo was good enough on its own, that “Niantic doesn’t care about us, so why should we care about them”, or even “Niantic should pay me if they want me to care”. While some of these should obviously be incorrect regardless of what the submitted wayspot is, the admin only took the time to correct those arguing against their wayspot. The Admin eventually shared that they posted on this forum for clarification, sharing that “We shall see if they respond to my request for clarification”. After generating 184 total replies, the Facebook thread was inevitably closed for further comments 


Several threads about this wayspot and topic ended up getting posted on this forum, however this thread, posted by the same person who submitted the mural (the Facebook group admin), was the one that ended up drawing the eye of Niantic. Not only did @NianticGiffard chime in to confirm that the Wayspot did not meet the guidelines, they went as far as to edit the description of the Wayspot to remove the offending quote. The user then doubled down and went on to request additional clarification as to whether or not an artist’s statement was a third-party source. Giffard then responded again, confirming that any such statement exactly copied from an external source is not allowed, as well as citing explanations from myself (source one, source two) as well as another explanation from @GearGlider-ING . Given the extreme clarity of these clarifications, you would think that this would pave the road to an easy resolution within the clearly misguided Facebook community, however, that is the opposite of what happened.


After Giffard posted his first clarification on the forum, several posts about it would be posted by different users in the Facebook group. The majority of the posts were just a screenshot of Giffard’s comment, with some outliers, such as a screenshot of the updated description on the POI in question. The admins of the group quickly removed these posts and began muting users (preventing them from posting anything for days or weeks) for trying to spread the news of this clarification. Eventually, the admins did allow one post of the original clarification to stay, yet another screenshot of Giffard’s first comment, however the post was locked for comments and users were unable to discuss or ask questions about this much needed clarification.


Today, in response to Giffard’s second clarification comment, even more posts sharing the clarification were posted to the group. All of these posts had their comments swifty locked and were removed shortly after they were posted, and any such user was muted from posting the group, with mutes ranging from one week to one month. Users began to make posts asking the admins why such clarifications from Niantic were being removed, and these posts were also locked for comments and removed, without being given an answer. Several users sent messages to the group admins seeking a reason for the removals and also did not get a response, despite one admin making two posts entirely unrelated to these clarifications and clearly being online. Eventually, one post was allowed to stay, showcasing screenshots of both of Giffard’s comments, however, this post was once again locked for comments immediately after being posted.


Eventually, the admins did make a post about the situation using their shared account (again, with the comments locked), which stated the following:

Dear Members

The topic how an artist's text has been quoted in the submission for an individual POI has been discussed in numerous posts in this group.

All relevant views have been expressed extensively in several recent posts. 

In the interest of keeping this group low-spam, additional posts about this identical issue won't be published for the next few days.

Thank you for your support.


Here is the problem: This topic was not discussed in numerous posts in the group. In fact, the conversation about the topic was only discussed one time, and the post was closed for discussion prior to Niantic ever providing their clarification. Every conversation after that was either swiftly deleted, or swiftly had the comments locked to prevent discussion. People who attempted to discuss the topic and educate the community were silenced and punished, being muted for weeks at a time. There is no possible way that “all relevant views have been expressed extensively”, unless the only “relevant” view is that this type of description should have been fine. This statement heavily implies that Niantic’s own clarification is not relevant. And given the amount of censorship that occurred, this truly seems to reflect the admin team’s mentality. Don’t forget that in the original post, the admin was clearly waiting for clarification from Niantic, but once they got the opposite answer to what they were looking for, instead of sharing that with their own group, the censorship began. 


There is an extra layer to this situation however, which revolves around Facebook’s algorithm for catering posts to users. Unlike this forum, Facebook does not just show posts and conversations in order of their most recent activity, Facebook uses an algorithm to cater posts and conversations that it believes the user will find more interesting and engaging. As a result, Facebook is far more likely to show users a post that has 184 comments, rather than a post that has zero comments, even if the post with 184 comments is several days old. As a result, the few posts that were approved and immediately locked were far less likely to be seen, and possibly intentionally so. Additionally, Facebook also prioritizes posts from group admins when catering posts to users. This should mean that more users saw the admin’s message, however, this may have also been muddled as well. As I noted earlier, around the time that people were reaching out to the admins this morning about their removed posts, one admin made two posts unrelated to the issue at hand (one about a footbridge, and another about a different mural), and of course, those posts were allowed to have their comments stay open. These two posts conveniently were posted right before, and right after the admin’s post regarding the issue at hand, and again may have been an intentional attempt to help bury their own statement, while hiding behind the fact that they had now technically addressed it.


In the very least, it is highly suspect that the admins have allowed the original post with 184 comments to stay up, given that the extreme majority of users in that thread are advocating in favor of the ineligible description and violating Niantic’s rules. It seems very much like the group admins have intention to allow the disinformation to stay visible (because that is the way they think things should be), while trying to delete, bury and stifle awareness of Niantic’s own guidelines and clarifications. 


At this point, I believe I have demonstrated that there is/was an intentional attempt to censor users and silence the spread of Niantic’s clarification, to the point that it willfully and intentionally miseducates users on Niantic’s official rules and guidelines. This would appear to be a violation of Section 5.2 and Section 6 of Niantic’s Terms of Service, as it is an attempt to disrupt and interfere with the legitimate operation of Niantic Wayfarer, by means of undermining Niantic’s clarifications and manipulating a group consisting of nearly 10,000 people into violating the Wayfarer guidelines, which in this specific case may put Niantic in legal risk of violating copyright and intellectual property laws.


I know many people who frequent this forum were affected by the censorship of the Facebook group admins, and I hope you all will share your experiences in the comments here.


Background Information

The “Wayfarer - Global Reviewers” Facebook group is, to my knowledge, the second largest Wayfarer fan-run community, containing approximately 9,800 members. It is second in size only to the /r/NianticWayfarer subreddit, which has 14,400 members. The Facebook group is a common entry point to Wayfarer for new users, as one of the group admins has joined a plethora of “local” Pokemon Go Facebook communities around the world, and frequently solicits their members to join the “Wayfarer - Global Reviewers” group to learn about submitting and reviewing Pokestops. This means that the group is particularly vulnerable to people unfamiliar with Wayfarer and Niantic’s guidelines, making these users especially vulnerable to falling for a disinformation campaign.


This is not the first time that the “Wayfarer - Global Reviewers” admin team has been found spreading misinformation. In an incident in April, the admins were found to be spreading misinformation in regards to POIs that were close to private residential property. The admin incorrectly advised that there was a blanket ban on any such nominations, and users who spoke out against this incorrect information had their comments deleted and were muted without just cause. In another incident in February 2020, the admins were found to have been promoting nominations located directly on private residential property, and as per usual, were found to be muting and censoring users who stated otherwise. It is my understanding that this incident ended with an intervention by @NianticCasey-ING. It frankly seems like it is time for Niantic to intervene once again. 


CC: @NianticTintino

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Comments

  • WheelTrekker-INGWheelTrekker-ING Posts: 2,650 ✭✭✭✭✭

    And we can't forget the infamous post where Casey stated that a monument in the middle of a roundabout had safe pedestrian access because it had some benches, despite lacking a crosswalk.

  • Anisaerah-PGOAnisaerah-PGO Posts: 51 ✭✭✭

    My post in that group asking why the posts were deleted/comments were turned off was deleted, after at least four people commented saying they also didn't understand.

    I commented on the anonymous admin post asking why only material supporting copy pasting was "relevant", and that was deleted, and comments on that post were turned off, only for the anonymous admin to turn them on for a moment to comment "bump".

    Given how hard it is even on this official forum to get answers to questions sometimes, it's very disheartening to learn that this behavior is apparently being (or has been) rewarded by Niantic through private information channels.

  • NorthSeaPoet-INGNorthSeaPoet-ING Posts: 895 ✭✭✭✭✭

    The admins of that group have claimed in the past to have a direct line to the Wayfarer team at Niantic and official Niantic pages have commented/posted in that group previously as well. The least Niantic could do is straighten out the criteria to be more understandable and actually post a statement in that group, assuming any of their staff are still members.

    So, whilst it's true that fanmade groups and channels are out of Niantic's control, if their official pages join any of them, you'd think they would be slightly more active in clarifying things and correcting any misinformation that gets shared.

  • TWVer-INGTWVer-ING Posts: 448 ✭✭✭✭✭

    It is not because there is no crosswalk, that is is always unsafe. And it is not because you have a different opinion than Niantic, that Niantic's opinion is wrong.

  • Feythyer-PGOFeythyer-PGO Posts: 11 ✭✭
    edited August 2021

    So report the POI and move on? shrug What do you think Niantic can do about modding in a third-party group?

  • AisforAndis-INGAisforAndis-ING Posts: 856 ✭✭✭✭✭

    The Facebook group admins are actually in violation of Facebook's own terms of service, specifically in their advocation of actions that would violate a copyright law as well as for participating in a disinformation campaign, but generally, if a representative of a company such as Niantic were to reach out to Facebook and explain that the group is collectively violating their own Terms of Service, Facebook is quick to shut down such a group.

    Furthermore, the admins account names within Wayfarer and the Niantic games are known, and as they are clearly in violation of the Terms of Service, they could easily be subject to actions such as account suspensions or termination.

  • NorthSeaPoet-INGNorthSeaPoet-ING Posts: 895 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited August 2021

    Sad but true. I swear they just do a wheel of fortune with their decisions.

    Post edited by NianticVK on
  • WheelTrekker-INGWheelTrekker-ING Posts: 2,650 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Outside people claimed that the local people were wrong about the safety of the location. Yeah, that makes sense, a 2 or 3 car lane without crosswalk is safe...

    One person was willing to pay for a travel there in order to see who dares to go into that roundabout and the reply by outsiders remained the same "there's a bench so it's safe"

  • AisforAndis-INGAisforAndis-ING Posts: 856 ✭✭✭✭✭

    The rest of them are just as bad, if not worse. This isn't an issue with just one admin.

  • CipherBlakk-PGOCipherBlakk-PGO Posts: 308 ✭✭✭✭

    But they're not violating terms of service as far as Niantic goes, with respect to the FB activity. The activity on FB is not part of any conduct "while using the Services" of Niantic. They're using a completely separate platform, which is essentially private. They can do whatever they like on this platform, and that it has so many users is irrelevant to that. Users are free to come and go from the platform, and they're free to go directly to Wayfarer and get the actual information. So they're not even silencing the clarification, because users have the freedom to get it directly from the source. Whether they do or not is up to them. They're not even disrupting or interfering with the legitimate operation of Niantic Wayfarer because none of this is occurring on the Wayfarer Services.

    As much as it's not right or fair, any Wayfarer user can say anything they want to anyone they want about how they think Wayfarer operates, anywhere outside of Wayfarer, and Niantic and Wayfarer can't do anything about it. It's not any kind of abuse in Wayfarer until actual questionable activities in the Wayfarer system start occurring, and only then can Wayfarer do anything about it. They can't censor or ban someone for activities outside Wayfarer.

    The thread that had all these "clarifications" can't even be held up as a gold standard of any kind of clarification effort, because it was so bungled from the start and needed multiple iterations of explanations just so people could have a complete understanding. Of course, all that is separate from what's happening on FB, but this whole thing comes across as some kind of moral condemnation of external activity that it's not even in a position to deliver.

    If we're not allowed to bring up Pokemon Go and Ingress issues because they're so unrelated to what Wayfarer actually has influence over, Facebook activity is even further outside this and this thread should be closed accordingly. Issues anyone has on an unofficial Facebook group need to be brought up on Facebook. It is not abuse of the Wayfarer services.

  • AisforAndis-INGAisforAndis-ING Posts: 856 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited August 2021

    There is a major difference between people sharing bad or incorrect information because they dont know better (especially when knowledgable users have the opportunity to correct such information), and a group of administrators collectively promoting incorrect information which they now know to not be true, as well as them censoring that same correct information to prevent users from learning it.

    Post edited by AisforAndis-ING on
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