Facebook Insists It's But A Hapless Spam Merchant, Not A Sewer Of Misinformation!
BREAKING: Facebook is a sewer. Film at 11.
Okay, not breaking. If you haven't yet grokked that the social media behemoth is hoovering up your data to sell to God only knows who, passively allowed Russians to ratfuck the 2016 US election, was used to promote genocide against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, and is a major vector for coronavirus misinformation — well, you've probably been living under a rock for the past five years. But assuming you're not waking up from a multi-year snooze, you'll take with several giant grains of salt the company's most recent report on user engagement.
Spoiler Alert: They pinky swear that the most popular posts are harmless spam, rather than dangerous invocations to drink sheep dip.
"Transparency is an important part of everything we do at Facebook," begins the inaugural Widely Viewed Content Report: What People See on Facebook. "In this first quarterly report, our goal is to provide clarity around what people see in their Facebook News Feed, the different content types that appear in their Feed and the most-viewed domains, links, Pages and posts on the platform during the quarter."
Astute observers will note that we are now in the third quarter of 2021, which means the report covers April, May, and June, i.e. the second quarter. Let's file that one under: foreshadowing.
Tell us more, Facebook overlords!
"We believe this new report, when paired with the engagement data available in CrowdTangle, represents a more complete picture of what people see on Facebook. We plan to expand the scope of this report in future iterations."
Well, good of them to spell it out, in case anyone was remotely confused about the point of this exercise. Facebook is flipping its shit after being called out by the White House for laundering dangerous anti-vaccine conspiracy theories. It just got body slammed by the Center for Countering Digital Hate for allowing the "Disinformation Dozen" to flood the platform with lies about Covid. And its own Crowdtangle metrics show that hate mongers like Ben Shapiro and Dan Bongino are among the most widely shared posts every day.
Hence this fun book report assuring us that most of what we see on Facebook is boring pictures of each other's kids, not posts on the latest quack Covid cure.
So if you scroll through 100 posts, only 13 of them will even have a link. And of those links, probably only a couple tell you that Moderna makes you magnetic. What are you whiners even complaining about?
Just look at this pantload of logorrhea:
We previously shared how content is recommended in News Feed, how our algorithms try to predict what people want to see out of the trillions of posts that are eligible and how we reduce problematic content by taking into account a combination of integrity signals, such as how likely a piece of content is to violate our policies. While the total number of US content viewers who saw content from these domains, links, Pages or posts in Q2 2021 was high, the content views that this content received comprised only a small fraction of the total content views in News Feed in the US that quarter.
Sounds to us kind of like "We're trying really hard to get that arsenic out of your drinking water, and we think it's down to like three percent now. Please clap!"
According to Facebook, the most popular domain linked to in the News Feed during 2022 was an unofficial Green Bay Packers fan site, with 87 million hits, followed by a CBD vendor with 72 million. Which ... sure, Jan.
Don't we all feel reassured that the site your uncle-cousins snort like crack is full of the most boring, harmless, spammy crap ever? Oh, but, hey, Zuck, what happened during the first quarter of the year? Speak up, Sheryl, we can't hear you!
No? Okay, we'll let the New York Times give us the deets instead:
Facebook had prepared a similar report for the first three months of the year, but executives never shared it with the public because of concerns that it would look bad for the company, according to internal emails sent by executives and shared with The New York Times.
In that report, a copy of which was provided to The Times, the most-viewed link was a news article with a headline suggesting that the coronavirus vaccine was at fault for the death of a Florida doctor. The report also showed that a Facebook page for The Epoch Times, an anti-China newspaper that spreads right-wing conspiracy theories, was the 19th-most-popular page on the platform for the first three months of 2021.
According to the Times, Facebook VP for analytics Alex Schultz shitcanned the report, hoping to head off a "public relations problem" if people realized that anti-vaxxers had shared the report, which falsely implied the Florida doctor had died from the Covid vaccine (not with it, heh heh), 54 million times on the site. There's also the minor embarrassment that Facebook, which bans advertising by the Epoch Times, is nonetheless a major vector for the outlet's bullshit.
Facebook's comms guy Andy Stone has a perfectly good explanation for this, though, and it is, uhhh, housekeeping.
We’re guilty of cleaning up our house a bit before we invited company. We’ve been criticized for that; and again, that’s not unfair.— Andy Stone (@Andy Stone) 1629585229.0
You know, like when you have friends coming round for dinner, so you shove all the Nazis and anti-vaxxers under the bed and spray Febreze on the sofa.
Stone pointed out that the New York Times also reported on the Florida doctor, so actually it is fine, really that anti-vaxxers twisted the story. And you know what? He's almost right on that one. If the site had actually reported its own data and discussed the infeasibility of managing a story that's technically true but being coopted for wild misinterpretation, that would be admirable. But the site didn't do that, instead opting to bury it, and clean up the house, so that next quarter they could release a report that says the site is overrun with the most boring shit ever. Which they'd like to you to take their word for, okay, please and thank you.
Please to disregard the cesspool of ads and private groups discussing Ivermectin as a "treatment" for Covid that is bubbling up on Facebook right this very minute.
So weird that no one trusts these guys, huh?
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.