In what it calls an effort to provide greater transparency, Facebook has released its first Widely Viewed Content report—but the company's critics say they've been left with more questions than answers. The report, which lists the 20 posts, pages, links, and domains seen by the most US Facebook users in their news feeds, was released as part of an effort to counter accusations that the social media site is dominated by partisan or misleading content, NPR reports. The most viewed posts were all photos or videos, with a word search meme topping the list with more than 80 million views. The list of most viewed domains was topped by YouTube, Amazon, and UNICEF, but things got stranger with the list of most viewed links, where a site connecting Green Bay Packers with fans was No. 1 with 87.2 million views.
Other most viewed links between April 1 and June 30 this year included a site selling CBD oil and one selling Christian merchandise. Facebook, which plans to release the report quarterly, says the top 20 most-viewed posts collectively accounted for only around 0.1% of News Feed views. The company says the majority of posts viewed were from people's family and friends, and many of the most-viewed pages focused on "pets, cooking, family, and relatable viral content." Some reactions:
- "Desperately trying to prove a point." Taylor Hatmaker at TechCrunch says the "gesture at transparency" isn't "particularly useful." The set of data was presented in this way "because the company is desperately trying to prove a point: That its platform isn’t overrun by the political conspiracies and controversial right-wing personalities that make headlines," Hatmaker writes.
- Why the Packers site was top. Gilad Edelman at Wired believes the report only shows the extent of Facebook's spam problem. Edelman says the Packers site, run by former player Chris Jacke, came out on top because Jacke posts a "steady stream of low-rent viral memes that have nothing to do with the Packers," including the business URL with each one.
- Facebook's reply: Asked about the Packers site, Facebook spokesperson Ryan Peters said: “When content from lesser known creators goes viral it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It shows that anyone, not just established superstars, can reach a wide audience on the platform so long as their content is compelling."
- "They’re trying to control the narrative." Social media expert Jennifer Grygiel at Syracuse’s Newhouse School tells the Washington Post that the release is "yet more PR" from Facebook. She says "they're trying to control the narrative" around reports like the Facebook's Top 10 list produced by New York Times reporter Kevin Roose. His list of the top-performing pages, created with the analytical tool CrowdTangle, is regularly dominated by conservative personalities.
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