Gentle internet users, be cautious about who you put your trust in.
Facebook’s Wednesday report about “Widely viewed Content” shows that the top-shared links in users’ News Feeds for the second quarter 2021 were related to topics such as football, recipes, charity donations and hemp. However, you might want to avoid trusting Facebook too heavily.
According to the New York Times Friday report, the social media giant buried a comparable report it had prepared for the first three months of 2021. The reason is obvious: Facebook was not thrilled by the results.
An earlier report that was reviewed by the Times and internal emails shared with it, showed that Q1’s most viewed link contained a headline that attributed the Florida doctor’s death to the COVID-19 vaccine. (All of the COVID vaccines currently approved for emergency use in the U.S. are “safe and effective,” the Centers for Disease Control has stated.)
According to the same report, the page of a website that promotes conspiracy theories and misinformation on Facebook was 19th most visited during the first months in 2021. This is enough for anyone to think President Joe Biden might have had something to say in July.
The report was set to be released, but executives intervened with concerns about the potential for it creating an embarrassing public relations disaster. This group consisted of Alex Schultz, chief marketing officer at Facebook. Although Schultz originally supported publication, he later changed his mind and decided to keep it secret. Following this, the report was not published.
Andy Stone, Facebook spokesperson, had an entire silence to speak to the Times: “We thought about making the report public sooner, but we knew how much attention it would get, just as we saw this past week. There were fixes to our system that we wanted to make.”
The story doesn’t provide any further information about Facebook’s thoughts. Mashable reached back with some questions to clarify what needed “fixes”, and what company leaders believe the delay in publishing an unfavorable review says about Facebook’s efforts to make transparency more transparent. However, the company has not yet responded.
The Q2 report, meanwhile, has been widely panned for presenting what critics consider to be an inaccurate portrayal of what people are seeing on the platform. According to The Washington Post, the Q2 report was part of Facebook’s larger push to discredit or block independent research on harmful content. Instead, it offered its own data and statistics.
We saw one such situation unfold recently when Facebook moved to pull the plug on NYU’s Ad Observatory project, an effort that was conceived to monitor and analyze how politicians spend ad money on the platform. To collect data about ad placement, the NYU program used a browser extension. All participants had to opt in.
Facebook threatened to shut the project down in the weeks ahead of the 2020 election in the U.S., and it eventually acted on those threats roughly halfway into 2021. Many critics noted that Facebook relied on weak and easily undermined arguments in justifying its decision.
It’s almost like ExxonMobil is releasing their climate change study,” an ex-Facebook employee said to the Post during its Q2 story. It’s an attempt to counter media coverage and independent research that has revealed a completely different story.
Facebook is indeed very proud of the report and its transparency. Guy Rosen, Vice President of Integrity, stated in the statement that was provided to the Story: “This report is yet another step in the long journey we have undertaken to become, by far the most transparent website on the web.”
This is an incredibly shocking sentence when viewed in context of the new Times Report. It makes clear that Facebook tried to conceal an earlier more serious report and fix it in ways that aren’t yet clear to make sure that no other reports end up in that same place.
It’s not surprising or unusual for any company to put its interests above those of others. It’s hard to believe Facebook’s exaggerated claims about transparency and public service when it is doing the exact opposite.
Publited Sat, 21 August 2021 at 21:14.32 +0000