Facebook: We Show People Completely Random Garbage, Not Nazi Stuff

A report aimed at showing that Facebook is not a cesspool shows it's a slightly different sort of cesspool than critics assert.
August 18, 2021, 8:02pm
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In an apparent attempt to brutally own New York Times columnist Kevin Roose—with whom I previously worked—for having set up a Twitter account that shows the most-engaged with content on Facebook is, per its own metrics, brain-rotting right-wing garbage, Facebook released a report on Wednesday showing instead that the most widely-viewed content on the platform is indeed garbage, but of a different variety than it's usually blamed for.

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This is the first in what will be an ongoing series of quarterly reports from Facebook's misleadingly titled "Transparency Center." It argues that what people see on Facebook is as important as what they actually engage with, and uses highly specific definitions of highly specific terms and a variety of charts and graphs essentially to assert that none of it really matters because any specific post is seen by a very small part of Facebook's audience. (Facebook repeatedly stresses that even its most popular posts account for less than a tenth of a percent of its users.) The purpose of this is to defend against criticism that by promoting anti-vaccination content, calls for attacks on elected officials and the like into people's News Feeds, Facebook has harmed the world.

Why issuing what amounts to a list of a few domains and posts that were widely viewed several months ago would "provide clarity around what people see in their Facebook News Feed"—the stated goal of the report—isn't clear, but the list itself is certainly interesting.

The most popular link on Facebook in the second quarter of this year was to https://playeralumniresources.com, a site connecting the public with former members of the Green Bay Packers who are available to appear at golf outings and so on. (Representatives of Player Alumni Resources did not immediately return Motherboard's requests for comment.) It had 87.2 million views. Other popular links included https://purehempshop.com/collections/all (72.1 million views); t-shirt concern https://reppnforchrist.com/ (51.6 million views); and https://www.londonedge.com/index.html, a host of "authentic lifestyle fashion trade shows" (44.3 million views). 

The most popular single posts, meanwhile, are almost entirely drivel intended to spur engagement and conversation, such as a post that simply says "Please Settle This Debate Does Sugar Go in Spaghetti" from a woman named Christina Watts, a post that says “If your VAGINA or PENIS was named after the last TV show/Movie u watched what would it be…” by Australian YouTuber Ozzy Man Reviews, “Which alcohol made y’all throw up and say I never wanna drink again ? I’ll wait” by an account called Kitchen Fun With My 3 Sons, and “Write a sad story… in only 4 words” by actor Joseph Gordon Levitt.

The journalism industry is among those that have largely reconfigured themselves over the last decade in an attempt to access the News Feed.