Facebook publishes content transparency report after criticizing it was not transparent


Facebook posted a report (.pdf) on Saturday night about his most viewed posts in Q1 2021 that he initially shelved, apparently because it gave the company a bad image.

As the first reported by the New York Times, who obtained a copy of the first quarter report before Facebook published it, the most viewed link on Facebook between January and March of this year was a since-updated article that suggested the death of a Florida doctor could be linked to the COVID-19 vaccine.

Andy Stone, Head of Political Communications at Facebook tweeted on Saturday that the criticisms Facebook received for not posting the report “weren’t unfair,” but tried to unravel the intricacies of how it handled this most viewed link:

“The media wrote about the South Florida doctor who died. When the coroner published a cause of death, the Chicago Tribune added an update to its original story; NYTimes didn’t. Would it have been fair to delete the story from The Times because it was misinformation about COVID? Pierre tweeted. “Of course not. No one is suggesting that and neither am I. But it illustrates how difficult it is to define disinformation.

Stone said Facebook withheld the January-March report “because there were key system fixes we wanted to make.” He did not elaborate further on what those fixes were, but did tweet a link to the Q1 report.

What Facebook posted on August 18 was a report showing the most viewed content in their public news feed from April to June, her second trimester. It offers a rosier image of the company; the most viewed post in Q2 was a word puzzle that asked users to choose the first three words they saw. The second most viewed Facebook post between April and June asked users over 30 to post a photo of themselves if they looked young. The most viewed domains were YouTube, UNICEF, Spotify, and CBS News. Among the ten most viewed links on Facebook in the second quarter was a Kittens gif, and one UNICEF response page to the COVID-19 crisis in India.

It is not at all clear why Facebook decided to publish these popular content reports, but criticism of the platform’s handling of misleading information about COVID-19 has escalated in recent weeks. The Biden administration has urged Facebook and other social media platforms to do a better job of dealing with misleading or false information about COVID-19 vaccines on their sites.

Another possible motivation for Facebook’s new “transparency” reports is probably the work of New York Times technical columnist Kevin Roose who last year started using the Facebook-owned content analytics platform CrowdTangle to compile and publish daily lists top performing US Facebook pages, lists that frequently included pages dedicated to former President Trump, and right-wing pundits like Ben Shapiro and Dan Bongino. The lists would have been a source of irritation for Facebook.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday morning. You can read the full Q1 Content Transparency Report below.

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