Written by Nick Heer.

Facebook’s Widely Viewed Content Report Still Shows a Platform Full of Suspicious and Poor-Quality Links

Last month, Jeff Horwitz of the Wall Street Journal explained that Facebook’s most recent Widely Viewed Content report was a cause for celebration at the company, as it indicated the apparent triumph of the platform’s moderation tools over spammers and scammers. It was a well-coordinated leak — the Journal article was published at exactly the same time Facebook released its report — and it did its job by highlighting Facebook’s recent efforts after an embarrassing previous quarter report. It looked like a more positive direction, but I urged caution.

Yesterday, the Integrity Institute published a more comprehensive analysis:

While this is in general good, and the teams working internally to improve the quality should feel good about their work, we do not see any significant change in the quality of content that made it into the top links and top posts lists. The majority of content there continues to fail basic media literacy checks. A dip in unoriginal content is compensated by a rise in content using spam networks. And we’ve found content that might violate Facebook’s policies that Facebook may have overlooked.

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Finally, a quick note of what wasn’t on the top content lists: the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. She died on September 8th, so well within the Q3 time range of this list, but no story about her makes it into the top 20.

It is very odd, though perhaps explained by having such a large volume of coverage diluting the impact of any specific link. Remember, this report only shows the twenty most popular links, posts, and pages on Facebook, and is only a fractional sliver of what gets published there. That, I think, makes it all the more notable to see the peculiar and specific traffic arbitrage scheme found by these researchers.