Social Media

Facebook Shelved Earlier Report on Popular Posts Fearing Public Outcry

Facebook issued a report on its most-viewed postings in the first quarter of 2021 on late Sunday, which it had first postponed because it made the business seem bad, according to reports.

The most-viewed link on Facebook between January and March of this year was a since-updated news item suggesting a Florida doctor’s death may be connected to the COVID-19 vaccination, as originally reported by the New York Times, which got a copy of the Q1 report before Facebook posted it.

Facebook policy communications manager Andy Stone said on Saturday that the criticism for not sharing the report “wasn’t unreasonable,” but he sought to clarify the complexity of how it handled the most-viewed link.

“News outlets wrote about the south Florida doctor that died. When the coroner released a cause of death, the Chicago Tribune appended an update to its original story; NYTimes did not. Would it have been right to remove the Times story because it was COVID misinfo?” Stone tweeted. “Of course not. No one is suggesting this and neither am I. But it does illustrate just how difficult it is to define misinformation.”

Facebook postponed the January-March report “because there were critical system changes we needed to make,” according to Stone. He didn’t say what those improvements were, but he did tweet a link to the Q1 report.

On August 18th, Facebook issued a report detailing the most popular items in its public News Feed from April to June, the second quarter. It paints a more positive picture of the firm; in Q2, the most popular post was a word puzzle in which users were asked to pick out the first three words they saw. Between April and June, the second most-viewed Facebook post encouraged people over 30 to upload a photo of themselves if they appeared youthful. YouTube, UNICEF, Spotify, and CBS News were among the most popular websites. A GIF of kittens and a UNICEF reaction website for India’s COVID-19 issue were among the top ten most-viewed links on Facebook in Q2.

The report was nearing public release when some executives, including Alex Schultz, Facebook’s vice president of analytics and chief marketing officer, debated whether it would cause a public relations problem, according to the internal emails. The company decided to shelve it.

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