Facebook shared more data, but the company is still under the watchful eye of politicians and other critics.
Sarah Tew / CNET
Facebook decided not to publish a top-viewed content report for the first three months of the year amid concerns the data could make the company look bad, the New York Times reported on Friday.
The Times said, citing internal emails, that Alex Schultz, Facebook’s vice president of analytics and chief marketing officer, and other executives were discussing whether the report’s findings would harm Facebook’s image. The report showed that the most viewed link in the first quarter was a news article from The South Florida Sun Sentinel and from The Chicago Tribune with the headline “A ‘healthy’ doctor died two weeks after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine; CDC is investigating why. “The Epoch Times, a far-right media company, was also the 19th most popular site on the platform.
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The revelations raise questions about whether Facebook is selectively releasing data that will help the company address concerns that polarizing content is widespread on the platform. The Biden administration and other politicians have also urged the social network to do more about COVID-19 misinformation that may make people reluctant to get vaccinated.
Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Andy Stone, a spokesman for the company, tweeted, “We ended up doing it because we had to make corrections.” He also pointed out that the most viewed headline came from an authoritative news source.
Facebook executives have reportedly raised concerns about information from a data analytics tool called CrowdTangle, which Facebook owns and which is showing a high level of engagement with right-wing websites. On Wednesday, Facebook published a report for the first time that included which domains, links, pages and posts were most viewed on Facebook in the US in the second quarter, which falls between April and June.
The most viewed domain in the second quarter was YouTube. The most viewed link was Player Alumni Resources, and the top page was from Unicef. The most viewed post was a picture of a motivational speaker asking people what the first few words they see on a letter pad.
Company executives said during a press briefing that it released the data as part of its broader commitment to transparency. But some people, including former Vice President of Product Marketing at Facebook Brian Boland, said the report “does not deliver the transparency it promised” because the data is limited and he believes it is “useless.”
“After reading the press release and the report myself, I believed this whole effort was a PR stunt,” he said in a Medium post.