Social Media Harms
Facebook’s Most Widely Viewed Content is…SPAM
Integrity Institute Report Finds Repetitive, Angry Content in Facebook’s Top 20 Posts and Links
On March 30, 2022, the Integrity Institute released its analysis of Facebook’s quarterly Widely Viewed Content Report for 2021-Q4, authored by co-founder Jeff Allen. This analysis includes a dashboard which provides a comparison of the 2021-Q4 report to the 2021-Q2 and 2021-Q3 reports.
Facebook’s report shares what it claims to be the top 20 Facebook Pages, domains, individual links and individual posts accessed by the greatest number of unique Facebook accounts per designated three-month period in the United States. This is in contrast to YouTube, which provides a weekly list of its most widely viewed videos, which provides results of far more than 20 videos, given a quick look at the content displayed.
The Integrity Institute concluded that only 20 percent of the top content passes the four media literacy questions below:
- Who made the content? Is there a name of a person, business, or account associated with the content?
- How did they make the content? Is it original or a collection of previously posted material (i.e. spam)?
- How are they distributing the content? Are the distributors using multiple Facebook pages and groups to spread the same content (networked accounts)? If so, this may be an indication of content providers attempting to increase numbers of followers through spreading spam.
- Is the content harmful or manipulative? Does the post or content distributor (Facebook account) conform to Facebook’s community standards?
The Integrity Institute’s study concluded that 10% of Facebook’s top content was distributed by accounts that violate Facebook’s Terms of Service.
Much of the content that violated Facebook’s Terms of Service included videos from Instagram Reels. The reports notes that most of these videos include content about conflict and fighting:
“Of the 11 Reels which showed up in the top 20 Facebook posts, 7 of them were clearly focused on people fighting with each other, sometimes physically, sometimes verbally. It is important to stress that these are all recommended Reels. The vast majority of Facebook users who were shown these videos never chose to follow the accounts that uploaded them.”
Allen states that anonymous accounts have increased from 5 percent of top posts and links in 2021-Q2 to 45 percent in 2021-Q4. He attributes this increase to Facebook’s discontinuation of promoting authoritative health links and substituting that strategy with promoting posts that share content from Instagram Reels.
Facebook’s top content reports have always highlighted the fact that 60 percent or more of the top content shared is obtained from other sources to include Twitter, Reddit, Quora, and YouTube. The 2021-Q4 report had similar findings.
The report also concluded that networked accounts are distributing a greater amount of the top content, with 20 percent of the content being shared on networked accounts and groups in 2021-Q2 to over 40 percent in Q4–2021.
Allen discusses several technologically feasible methods that other platforms have used to amplify original content produced by identified content creators. As highlighted in the Facebook Papers, it appears that Meta’s leadership does not want to change the Facebook Feed algorithm to make content posted there more trustworthy and original, not that it is not possible for them to do so.
Meta’s leadership continues to prioritize profits over, frankly, anything else. Now is the time to contact your elected leadership and ask for regulations that require technology companies to share their internal research with academics outside of their organizations and to compel them to share the design and content of their algorithms with U.S. governmental regulators.
Contact your U.S. federal elected officials:
and ask them for legislation that includes the above reforms.
Social Media Harms provides a listing of peer-reviewed studies, scholarly books, and articles from authoritative sources that document the negative effects of social media use. The site also lists links to organizations dedicated to reducing the harms created by social media platforms and other online services. We do not solicit donations, however, we are asking for additions to our lists of peer reviewed studies and authoritative books and articles.