“Transparency is an important part of everything we do at Facebook,” begins a new Facebook report weeks after the company disabled the accounts of academic researchers studying the famously opaque algorithms that undergird its platform.
The report is the first of a series of quarterly reviews aiming to “provide clarity around what people see in their Facebook News Feed” amid continued accusations that the Facebook News Feed is a hotbed of right-wing misinformation and conspiracies. Facebook claims that alarming analytics data from companies like CrowdTangle, which repeatedly shows conservative figures like Ben Shapiro outperforming traditional news outlets, is misleading, because it measures engagement (how many people interact with a given link) rather than reach (how many people actually see it).
To set the record straight once and for all, Facebook has decided to publish the most viewed domains, pages, links, and posts from Q2 of 2021. Indeed, the selective data does not show much in the way of QAnon conspiracies, TERF meltdowns, and anti-cancel culture screeds. Also missing is anything interesting, entertaining, educational, newsworthy, or grammatically correct.
In fact, Facebook’s most viewed content is a horrifying blend of viral videos, random websites, and desperate attempts at likes and comments that make one nostalgic for the intellectual rigor of the Ice Bucket Challenge. A Green Bay Packers fan site was the number one most viewed link of the three-month period Facebook studied. Number five was the apparel company Repp’n For Christ, which sells t-shirts reading “Witness” and “Anointed.” The most widely viewed pages included Kitchen Fun With My 3 Sons, 3am Thoughts, and A Woman’s Soul, whose official description enigmatically reads “Awakening A Woman’s Soul. Ladies know your value and what you deserve. This page is dedicated to.” We love a cliffhanger.
But all of this pales in comparison to the list of most popular posts from regular Facebook users, which consists almost entirely of prompts so banal that their viewers would be forgiven for joining QAnon just to have something more compelling to read. “I’m old But I look Young Challenge. Drop a pic 30 and up,” says the second most viewed post. “Peanut butter goes with ____ (you can’t say jelly),” tempts number nine. “Date yourself by naming one concert you have attended,” demands The Typical Mom at number twelve, before making a second appearance right after that with “What happens in your head when you add 28 plus 47?”
And then there’s number five:
“Looks like we have more yes’s than no’s,” Christina informs us in her follow-up comment, as 3.8 million people continue to comment on her post, presumably hopped up on sugar spaghetti.
Facebook’s mission is “to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together,” and the data shows that this has been a rousing success. Some build community by planning violent insurrections, while others do it by obsessively answering questions like “If your VAGINA or PENIS was named after the last TV show/Movie u watched what would it be..” Mine would be the White Lotus.