When Facebook this week released its first quarterly report on the most viewed posts in the United States, Guy Rosen, its vice president of integrity, said the social network had taken “an action long process” to become “the most transparent platform on the Internet.” The list shows that the posts with the most reach tend to be innocuous content like recipes and cute animals .
Facebook prepared a similar report for the first three months of the year, but executives never shared it with the public out of concern that it would look bad for the company, according to internal emails sent by executives. executives sent and shared with The New York Times.
In that report, a copy of it was provided to The Times, the most viewed link being an article with the title suggesting that the coronavirus vaccine was the bug that caused the death of a Florida doctor. . The report also shows that the Facebook page of Epoch Times, an anti-China newspaper that spreads right-wing conspiracy theories, was the 19th most popular page on the platform in the first three months of 2021.
According to internal emails, the report is about to be made public as several executives, including Alex Schultz, Facebook’s vice president of analytics and chief marketing officer, debate whether it’s causing problems. public relations or not. The company decided to shelve it.
“We considered making the report public sooner, but because we knew it would attract attention, exactly what we saw this week,” said Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesman. this, so there are fixes to the system that we want to make.”
Facebook did not say why it decided to issue a report to the public, but it has faced increasing scrutiny over the data it shares with the government and the public, in particular. misinformation about viruses and vaccines. Criticism has escalated as cases from the Delta variant of the coronavirus increase. The White House has called on the company to share more information about false and misleading information on the site, and to do a better job of preventing its spread. Last month, President Biden accused the company of “murder” by allowing misinformation to spread widely, a White House statement later softened. Other federal agencies have accused Facebook of withholding important data.
Facebook has refused, publicly accusing the White House of making a scapegoat for the company for the administration’s failure to meet its vaccination goals. Executives at Facebook, including Mark Zuckerberg, its chief executive, say the platform has actively removed misinformation about Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic. The company says it removed more than 18 million pieces of misinformation in that time period.
But Brian Boland, Facebook’s former vice president of product marketing, said there are reasons to be skeptical about data collected and released by a company with a history of defending its own interests.
“You cannot trust a report administered by a company and designed to resist press coverage rather than transparency that really matters,” Mr. Boland said. “Bringing us that transparency is up to regulators and government officials.”
In this week’s report, which covers public content viewed in Facebook News Feed from April 1 to June 30, popular links include local news stories, cat GIFs, and pages Green Bay Packers alumni web site. Popular posts, viewed by tens of millions of accounts, include prompts and viral question-and-answer memes.
Most of the company’s draft report, like the one released by Facebook on Wednesday, shows that the 20 most viewed links on Facebook in the US are to non-political content, like recipe sites. and the story of the United Nations Children’s Fund.
But the refuted report also included an article about the doctor’s death in Florida. Title of the article, from The South Florida Sun Sentinel and reposted by The Chicago Tribune: “A ‘healthy’ doctor died two weeks after getting a COVID-19 vaccine; CDC is investigating why.”
This link has been viewed by nearly 54 million Facebook accounts in the United States. Many commenters on the post raised questions about the safety of the vaccine. Six of the top 20 sharers come from public Facebook pages that regularly post anti-vaccination content on Facebook, according to data from CrowdTangle, a social media analytics company owned by Facebook. Other top story-sharers include Philippine Facebook pages supporting President Rodrigo Duterte, a pro-Israel Facebook group, and a page called “Just the Facts,” which describes itself as “giving the truth even though it’s true.” when the media doesn’t.”
Months later, the medical examiner’s report said there was not enough evidence to say whether the vaccine contributed to the doctor’s death. Very few people on Facebook have seen that update.
The 19th most popular social media page in the previous report was Epoch Times’ “World in Trends”, a publication that promoted QAnon conspiracy theories and spread false claims about election fraud. voters ahead of the 2020 presidential election. Epoch Times is banned from advertising on Facebook for repeatedly violating the platform’s political advertising policies.
According to the report, Trending World was viewed by 81.4 million accounts, slightly less than the 18th most popular site, Fox News, which saw 81.7 million content viewers in the first three months of 2021.
Facebook’s transparency report released Wednesday also shows that an Epoch Times subscription link is one of the most viewed in the United States. With about 44.2 million accounts seeing the link in April, May and June, it’s half as popular as Trending World in ranking reports.
Sheera Frenkel contribution report. Jacob Silver and Ben Decker Contributing research.