Facebook reveals most-seen posts are inane questions, not politics

Facebook reveals most-seen posts are inane questions, not politics

After being accused of spreading right-wing content, Facebook has revealed that its most-viewed posts include asking if sugar goes with spaghetti.

Its first-ever report on the contents of people’s news feeds in the United States focuses on how many people see a post rather than any other measurement.

It shows a word search promising to reveal “your reality” was the most popular post for three months in 2021.

Similarly frivolous question posts with giant text formed most of the top 20.

“Please settle this debate, does sugar go in spaghetti?” placed fourth, with 58.6 million views – and 3.8 million arguments in the comments.

I’m old but I look young challenge. Drop a pic 30 and up” rose to a lofty second. Nearly five million people obliged.

But arguably the Facebook page “The typical mom” came out on top, as the only one with two posts in the top 20: “Date yourself by naming one concert you have attended” and “what happens in your head when you add 28 plus 47?”

Facebook noted that “some of the posts in the top 20 may contain lower-quality content”.

Changing the rules

The report attempts to draw a distinction between what is seen most, detailed in this report, and what is engaged with most through likes, comments, and shares.

It serves as a counterpoint to data gathered with Crowdtangle, Facebook’s engagement-measuring tool, which suggests that right-leaning political content is dominant on Facebook, an allegation which was widely reported last year.

Facebook has fiercely pushed back against that idea, saying that only 6% of content seen by users is political.

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In its November post on the issue, it focused on the “reach” of links and posts, instead of engagement, which dramatically changes what is “most popular”.

The new report similarly focuses on most-viewed content rather than any other metric, and the resulting list is made up of harmless posts.

It looked at content between April and June, and only examined the US. It also discarded views from paid ads to “boost” a post, Facebook said.

So much content is posted to Facebook that, added together, the top 20 posts still only accounted for “for less than one-tenth of a per cent of all US content views”, the social network said.

Football and CBD

Two posts were notable for being substantially different from the rest of the top 20 – a post by Joe Biden, 100 days into his presidency, in which he wrote that “America is getting back on track” (number six), and a video from 5-Minute Crafts on how to build a small paddling pool (number 10).

While most of the top posts seemed to be engagement-chasing question posts, not everything in the report pointed in that direction.

Facebook has, for example, long argued that it drives substantial traffic to news organisations, despite a sometimes frosty relationship between publishers and the tech giant in recent years.

While YouTube, Amazon, and children’s charity Unicef were the top three most-seen sites though links, five major organisations – ABC News, the Daily Mail, NBC News, CNN, and CBS News – made it into the top 20 domains.

The most-seen links are more varied.

The single most-viewed one was for an obscure Green Bay Packers American football team site. Next down the list was a seller of CBD – a cannabis extract, while a Christian clothing firm and a local Virginia radio station also featured.