Facebook withheld a transparency report showing that the most popular post in the first quarter of 2021 was a link to an article spreading misinformation about Covid-19 vaccines. For the Menlo Park-headquartered giant, it couldn’t have been a worse time when he was caught suppressing a report that made him look bad.

For the past year it has been busy cleaning up its reputation as a haven for conspiracy theories, fake news and untruths. Facebook did so as lawmakers, regulators, and the general public increased pressure on social media platforms to tackle the misinformation, as noted in a recent thematic research report by GlobalData.

Facebook last week released a report on the most popular posts, domains and links on its platform in the second quarter to demonstrate its commitment to transparency.

However, the New York Times later revealed that a previous report for the period between January and March was prepared and not published. The newspaper had received the Q1 report before Facebook published it late Saturday.

The report shows that the most viewed link on Facebook in the first quarter was a news story updated since then suggesting that the death of a doctor in Florida may be linked to the Covid-19 vaccine.

The New York Times reported that top executives had decided not to publish the Q1 report given the PR issues involved.

In response to the New York Times story, Andy Stone, manager for Facebook Policy Communications, went on Twitter over the weekend and tweeted that it wasn’t unfair to receive criticism, but argued that the Q1 report made the contained the Covid-19 story, in the right context.

We received criticism for keeping an internal report until it was cheaper for us and then publishing it. Receiving criticism is not unfair. But it’s worth taking a closer look – and jotting down some of the components of the story.

The director of policy communications then briefly railed about what should and shouldn’t be considered misinformation.

“The news outlets wrote about the late doctor in South Florida,” Stone continued. “When the coroner announced a cause of death, the Chicago Tribune added an update to its original story; NYTimes don’t. Would it have been right to remove the Times story because it was Covid misinformation?

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“Of course not. Nobody actually claims this and neither do I, but it shows how difficult it is to define misinformation.”

When asked why Facebook withheld the Q1 report but released the Q2 report, Stone said it was “because there were important fixes to the system that we wanted to make.”

“We are guilty of tidying up our house a bit before we invite company,” he added. “We were criticized for that; and that’s not unfair. ”

On the question of the unpublished report earlier this year and why we kept it. In the end, we kept it because there were important fixes to the system that we wanted to make.

On August 18, Facebook published a report on how its US audience used the platform between April and June 2021. The Widely Viewed Content Report: What People See on Facebook did pretty much what the first did, with one major exception: it painted a rather rosy picture.

“Transparency is an important part of everything we do on Facebook,” said the company. “Our goal in this first quarterly report is to be clear about what people are seeing on their Facebook news feed, what different types of content appear in their feed, and what domains, links, pages and posts are on the platform during the quarter most frequently called. ”

The most viewed post in the second quarter was a post with a full letter image telling the reader that the first three words they would see are “your reality”. It has been viewed more than 80.6 million times. The second most viewed post got those over 30 who looked young to share a picture of themselves. It has been viewed 60.4 million times. Third came a post claiming that people’s porn names were their middle names and the first car they owned. It has been viewed over 60.2 million times.

Other popular posts included U.S. President Joe Biden celebrating his first 100 days in office, a reporter asking if people would take off their masks, and a post with multiple images showing men in uniform, help the minorities and people of color.

Some of the most popular sites were Unicef, UniLad and the Daily Mail. The most popular domains included YouTube, UNICEF, Amazon and Spotify.

Facebook is struggling with Covid-19 misinformation. In the nearly 20 months since news of the Wuhan pandemic spread, social media giants have come under scrutiny. And they have taken action and launched several initiatives to combat the spread of falsehoods on their platforms.

“Covid-19 is likely to be a point of no return for misinformation for large social media companies,” said a new report from GlobalData in June. “During the pandemic, these companies took action against the spread of fake news. This shift to a more proactive stance on misinformation is likely to be permanent as they are expected to continue monitoring malicious content after the pandemic. ”

However, these initiatives are unable to appease those in power. For example, in March, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Jack Dorsey of Twitter and Sundar Pichai, CEO of YouTube owner Google, spent five hours talking to US Senators about their shortcomings in fighting fake news, misinformation about Covid-19 vaccines and the Conspiracy theories grilled that led to the Capitol Hill uprising in January.

In July, Biden went so far as to say that the Menlo Park-based company “killed people” by allowing misinformation about Covid-19 vaccines to be spread on its platform. He later softened the message a bit by saying that the super spreaders peddling the falsehoods were the real problem, but that they were hosted on popular sites like Facebook and YouTube.

Menlo Park then released a response saying it was “not the reason” the Biden government had missed its goal of vaccinating 70% of Americans by July 4th. Facebook claimed that its data shows that 85% of its US users “have been or are planning to be vaccinated against Covid-19.”

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Ref: https://www.verdict.co.uk