Facebook Releases Transparency Report After Criticism

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Facebook released a report Saturday on its most-viewed posts in the first quarter of 2021, which it initially shelved for allegedly making the company look bad.

First reported by the New York Times, which obtained a copy of the Q1 report before Facebook published it, the most-viewed link on Facebook between January and March of this year was a since-updated report that the death of a Florida doctor was because of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Verge reports that Facebook’s communications chief Andy Stone said in a tweet Saturday that the criticism Facebook faced for not making the report public “wasn’t unfair,” but tried to explain the complexity of dealing with the most-viewed link.

Stone said Facebook withheld the report from January to March “because there were key fixes to the system we wanted to make,” but did not elaborate, merely tweeting a link to the first-quarter report.

What Facebook released on August 18 was a report showing the most viewed content in its public news feed from April to June. It offers a more pleasant picture of the company; the most viewed post in the second quarter was a puzzle that asked users to select the first three words they saw. The second most viewed Facebook post between April and June of this year asked users over 30 to post a picture of themselves when they looked young.

Among the top ten most-clicked links on Facebook in the second quarter were a GIF of kittens and a UNICEF response page for India’s COVID-19 crisis.

It remains unclear why Facebook published these popular content reports in the first place, but criticism of the social media giant’s handling of misleading COVID-19 information has increased in recent weeks. The Biden administration has called on Facebook and other social media platforms to improve their handling of misleading or false information about COVID-19 vaccines on their sites.

Another potential motivation for Facebook’s new “transparency” reports is likely the work of New York Times technology columnist Kevin Roose, who last year began using Facebook’s own content analytics platform CrowdTangle to collect and publish daily lists of the most powerful U.S. Facebook pages. These lists often included pages devoted to former President Trump, and right-wing influencers like Ben Shapiro and Dan Bongino.

For more information, read the original story in The Verge.

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