Facebook Maybe Not Singlehandedly Undermining Democracy With Political Content, Says Facebook

Facebook Maybe Not Singlehandedly Undermining Democracy With Political Content, Says Facebook

In a dispatch from Facebook’s newsroom released Tuesday night, corporate executives sought to downplay the role partisan discourse plays in shaping the platform, stressing that political content makes up only about 6% of users’ newsfeeds and that ranking pages by which posts receive the most engagement is not necessarily a good metric to determine which content is being seen by the most people.

The report is seemingly a response to a Twitter account called “Facebook’s Top 10,” created by New York Times tech journalist Kevin Roose, which lists which U.S. Facebook pages the top-performing link posts come from each day. On November 10, at the time of this writing, five out of ten of the top-performing posts were from the “Donald J. Trump” Facebook page, two were from a page bearing the name of the vitriolic anti-gay Reverend Franklin Graham, and one was from the page for conservative commentator and radio host Dan Bongino.

But in the post, Alex Schultz, VP of Analytics and Chief Marketing Officer, makes the case that reach — not just likes and shares — is a more valuable metric in determining what people are actually seeing when they log on to Facebook. Proprietary data culled by Facebook’s data analytics company, Crowdtangle — which is what Roose uses to compile his lists — can be used “to help people get some idea of what content will get likes, comments and reshares,” Schultz writes, “but it is not designed to show what is being seen the most.”

To that end, Schultz presents a list of the top 10 U.S.-based Pages based on their global engagement with all posts, and not just posts with links. Topping off that list for the week of October 23 – October 29? The “Donald J. Trump” Facebook page, again. The post also stresses that when ranked by global reach, animal-centric media company The Dodo actually reached a higher percentage of active weekly U.S. users than the Trump Facebook page, at a rate of 31 to 22 per cent.

While the post acknowledges that it’s not a “perfect analysis” of the ways Facebook is capable of impacting civic discourse, it does note that, in the aftermath of former Vice President Joe Biden being announced as the winner of the presidential election, ‘Americans applying heart reactions on political content were off the charts, while angry reactions were closer to baseline.’

May our wounded nation come together and heal itself.

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