Last week, Facebook came out with a report about its most viewed posts in the first quarter of 2021 that it initially shelved to ignore any kind of controversy. New York Times obtained a copy of the quarter one report before Facebook released it officially.
Andy Stone, Facebook’s policy communications manager tweeted Saturday that the criticism Facebook received for not releasing the report “wasn’t unfair”. Stone tweeted “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? Of course not. No one is actually suggesting this and neither am I. But it does illustrate just how difficult it is to define misinformation.”
According to Stone, Facebook withheld the first quarter report “because there were key fixes to the system we wanted to make.”
It is not clear why Facebook decided to release these reports at all. The Biden administration has urged social media platforms to deal with misinformation in a better way. This might have triggered initiatives for these reports. Another possible motivation for Facebook’s new “transparency” reports could be the work of New York Times tech columnist Kevin Roose.
Last year, Kevin Roose started using Facebook owned content analytics platform CrowdTangle to compile and publish daily lists of the top-performing US Facebook pages. The lists were reportedly sources of discomfort for Facebook because most of them were related to Trump and other right leaning controversial public figures like Ben Shapiro and Dan Bongino.