Fb could be very eager to dispel the notion that it helps amplify divisive content material and misinformation, and it has been working over the previous few months to plot a brand new technique of proving precisely this, ensuing within the launch of its newest quarterly report, which it is calling it is ‘Broadly Considered Content material’ replace.
As defined by Facebook:
“Over time, the Broadly Considered Content material Report will present extra element on the most-viewed content material that individuals see on Fb. It begins with the High 20 most-viewed domains, hyperlinks, Pages and posts in Information Feed previously quarter, and excludes advertisements however contains content material beneficial by Fb inside Information Feed items like Urged For You.”
As you possibly can see within the above chart, Fb is trying to underline the truth that, regardless of some information protection suggesting that political content dominates user feeds, that’s merely not the case.
“The overwhelming majority of content material seen in Information Feed throughout Q2 2021 (87.1%) didn’t embody a hyperlink to a supply exterior of Fb. Solely about 12.9% of Information Feed content material views within the US throughout Q2 2021 have been on posts that include hyperlinks.”
Which is smart – Fb has at all times sought to prioritize posts from family and friends, and has made specific algorithm changes to spice up this additional over time. However it’s attention-grabbing to notice the wording right here – Fb is saying that essentially the most ‘seen’ content material on its platform is clearly not hyperlinks to divisive political content material, given the general stats.
However ‘views’ and ‘engagement’ are two various things, and on this case, that distinction is essential.
To supply some extra context, in November final yr, Fb published an official response to this Twitter account, created by New York Occasions journalist Kevin Roose, which shares the highest ten Fb posts that see essentially the most engagement within the app every day.
The highest-performing hyperlink posts by U.S. Fb pages within the final 24 hours are from:
1. Ben Shapiro
2. Journal Star
4. Nick Adams
6. Ben Shapiro
7. Donald Trump For President
8. Information And Guts
9. Love Meow
10. Love Meow
— Fb’s High 10 (@FacebooksTop10) August 18, 2021
This itemizing is powered by Fb’s personal information, accessible by way of CrowdTangle, its monitoring and analytics platform, which is primarily utilized by journalists. As you possibly can see, the each day record of the posts that see essentially the most energetic engagement on the platform is mostly dominated by divisive political spokespeople, most right-leaning, which seems to underline Fb’s position in amplifying such content material.
Fb doesn’t like this characterization, and as famous, final November, it sought to clarify that this itemizing wasn’t truly a real reflection of what features essentially the most traction on Fb, with engagement information just one piece of the broader puzzle.
As per Facebook:
“A lot of the content material folks see [on Facebook], even in an election season, is just not about politics. Actually, based mostly on our evaluation, political content material makes up about 6% of what you see on Fb. This contains posts from associates or from Pages (that are public profiles created by companies, manufacturers, celebrities, media retailers, causes and the like).”
So whereas this content material might even see a excessive degree of engagement, that also does not imply that it is what folks see extra of within the app.
So as to counter this, Fb first reportedly sought to implement new options for how it displays data within CrowdTangle, with a view to primarily portray a greater image of Fb’s precise content material engagement scope.
That, based on the New York Times, did not go as deliberate:
“A number of executives proposed making attain information public on CrowdTangle, in hopes that reporters would cite that information as a substitute of the engagement information they thought made Fb look dangerous. However [Brandon] Silverman, CrowdTangle’s chief government, replied in an e-mail that the CrowdTangle group had already examined a function to do this and located issues with it. One difficulty was that false and deceptive information tales additionally rose to the highest of these lists.”
So, irrespective of how Fb was trying to spin it, a majority of these divisive posts have been nonetheless gaining traction, which exhibits that, even with the aforementioned algorithm updates to maneuver away from such sharing, this stays the kind of content material that sees essentially the most engagement on The Social Community.
Which leads us again to this new report – with this context in thoughts, Fb has now as soon as once more sought to re-shape the narrative that its programs assist to amplify divisive content material. this time by shifting the dialogue from ‘engagement’ – the posts that Fb customers truly touch upon, Like and share – to ‘views’, or the remark that individuals truly see of their feeds.
So how does Fb outline ‘Views’?
“Content material views are registered when a chunk of content material seems on somebody’s Information Feed, is seen on their cellphone, laptop or pill, and is current lengthy sufficient to be seen; ‘Content material viewers’ refers back to the variety of accounts who’ve seen a chunk of content material.”
It is a critically essential distinction on this context. The unique CrowdTangle information that Fb is now attempting to minimize, exhibits the sorts of posts that individuals on Fb are actively partaking with, whereas this report exhibits the sorts of content material and posts that seem in person feeds, however that they might not truly click on on, touch upon, Like, and so forth.
That is simply the content material that individuals see as they scroll. Which is a major variance.
So, based mostly on this, what do Fb customers see extra of?
Effectively, there are additionally some problems right here – however first, that is the record of the highest 10 most generally seen domains, based mostly on Fb hyperlinks, over the previous three months.
So individuals are seeing YouTube hyperlinks and UNICEF content material, nothing controversial right here.
By way of essentially the most seen hyperlinks, there are additionally few divisive and/or controversial domains:
Recipes, ‘Reppin’ for Christ’ – see, these usually are not all right-wing commentators and political conspiracy theories.
Even essentially the most seen Fb Pages over the previous three months itemizing refutes this concept:
It is all leisure – mild, innocent. Fb’s not, based on these figures, disproportionately amplifying division and political angst, whereas well being misinformation would even be at a minimal, based mostly on these findings.
However there are some key distinctions right here that Fb has sought to gloss over – most notably by means of using quarterly stats, versus each day, real-time data.
Information tales typically solely acquire traction on that particular day, so they might not see the identical quantity of presence in a quarterly itemizing, which spotlight cumulative views over time, whereas specializing in web page views is nearly irrelevant, when you think about that Fb can also be together with content material beneficial by Fb inside Information Feed items (like ‘Urged for you’).
And once more, the utilization of ‘views’ over ‘engagement’ additionally appears misleading, in that these are the posts which are displayed in person feeds, not those that they are actively partaking with.
Fb has additionally listed domain-level data for exterior hyperlinks, versus what particularly customers are linking to. What are the precise YouTube hyperlinks which are being shared? That kind of deeper drill-down can also present extra context – but it surely does look like extra context is just not essentially what Fb’s trying to obtain with this report.
It appears, extra doubtless, that Fb is searching for a method to counter the notion that it bears some accountability for amplifying political actions. And this information additionally does not measure shares in personal teams, shares in message threads, and so forth.
Principally, it is exhausting to take a lot actual perception from this new report, because it feels very deliberate, very deliberate, and structured round a particular purpose, versus sharing true perception. If Fb is 100% assured that it isn’t amplifying controversial content material, it may create its personal itemizing of the posts with essentially the most engagement AND views every day, and counter the High 10 record account.
But it surely will not, as a result of it is aware of that the itemizing can be similar to what already exists.
As a result of, prefer it or not, Fb does amplify controversial content material and actions. Round 70% of Americans now get no less than a few of their each day information content material from social platforms, and at 2.9 billion active users, even when solely a tiny fraction of general views/shares/engagement on the platform pertains to political dialogue, that is nonetheless a large quantity of engagement and exercise.
For context, at 2.9 billion month-to-month energetic customers, over 1 / 4 of exercise, even should you have been to take into consideration Fb’s famous stat that solely 12.9% of Information Feed content material views embody a hyperlink, that may nonetheless equate to greater than a billion hyperlinks proven in person feeds.
Fb’s new report does present some extra, generalized context, however the provisos across the information displayed appear to lift extra questions than present solutions on this respect.
You’ll be able to learn Fb’s ‘Broadly Considered Content material Report’ here.