Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Facebook Shelved an Earlier ‘Widely Viewed Content’ Report Because It Looked Bad

Of the many questions raised by Facebook’s “Widely Viewed Content” report, released Wednesday, one was about timing: why did Facebook choose to release a report covering April through June? Why start now rather than, say, in January?

Davey Alba and Ryan Mac, New York Times:

Facebook had prepared a similar report for the first three months of the year, but executives never shared it with the public because of concerns that it would look bad for the company, according to internal emails sent by executives and shared with The New York Times.

In that report, a copy of which was provided to The Times, the most-viewed link was a news article with a headline suggesting that the coronavirus vaccine was at fault for the death of a Florida doctor. The report also showed that a Facebook page for The Epoch Times, an anti-China newspaper that spreads right-wing conspiracy theories, was the 19th-most-popular page on the platform for the first three months of 2021.

Given the widespread mockery of what ended up being released, it makes me wonder if Facebook will scrap the very concept of this report rather than commit to a quarterly release schedule. Its goal seems to be creating a counterpoint to reporting that Facebook enables the spread of conspiracy theories and disinformation, but nobody seems to be convinced. Why would Facebook prepare an update to this in three months’ time — especially if, like the draft from the first quarter of this year, it will spur another round of bad press?