Facebook sat on report that reveals most-shared post for months was questionable COVID story

Then published its successor and claimed that was its debut effort


Facebook has revealed a report that shows the most-shared link on the platform in the first three months of 2021 described questionable interpretation of a death attributed to a COVID-19 vaccination – but only did so after publishing a later and more flattering report.

The later report, titled Widely Viewed Content Report: What People See on Facebook, was released on August 18th and covered Q2 2021. Facebook announced it with the following wording:

Transparency is an important part of everything we do at Facebook. In this first quarterly report, our goal is to provide clarity around what people see in their Facebook News Feed … during the quarter.

But the document wasn't Facebook's first such report. The New York Times reported that it had seen a Q1 version of the same document, but that it had never been released to the public.

Facebook quickly published the Q1 document here [PDF].

Both documents detail the 20 domains that received the most links from Facebook, the 20 most-seen links to external content, and the 20 most widely viewed Pages and posts on Facebook itself.

The most-shared external post in Q1 was to a story reporting the death of a Florida obstetrician two weeks after receiving a COVID-19 vaccination, and authorities' investigation of whether the jab contributed to the demise of the generally healthy man.

The report stated the incident was "possibly the nation's first death linked to the vaccine" but later updated the story with additional information that no link between the jab and the death had been found.

Facebook's secret Q1 report states the story was shared over 53 million times.

While the story appears to have been accurate in both of its editions – the doctor did die after his jab, his death was investigated and no link was found, but his symptoms are of a sort that can be expected in very, very, rare instances after a vaccination – it is widely seen as having groundlessly encouraged vaccine hesitancy. The story, and other more blatantly anti-vaccination content on Facebook, is thought to be one reason that US President Joe Biden said Facebook is "killing people" – a position supported by the US Surgeon General.

Both reports also mention vast traffic being directed to UNICEF, cute animals, and inspiring stories.

They also reveal that The Epoch Times, a far-right outlet that opposes the Chinese Communist Party, enthusiastically backed Donald Trump, and often publishes conspiracy theories, gets an awful lot of traffic from Facebook.

Both documents also note that while the items listed on the top 20 links list do get millions of views, they collectively account for under 0.01 per cent of all referrals flowing out of Facebook.

Facebook comms operative Andy Stone used the company's traditional tactic of apologising for the company's actions and promising to do better in future.

Stone also pointed out that the publication that carried the story updated it, but that The New York Times did not.

He also suggested that the different types of content listed in the two reports show that Facebook has made progress, opined that the Q3 report will show the company has further crimped the spread of misinformation, and suggested that term and the word "disinformation" has been abused by some who equate it with content they don't like or agree with.

Stone did not, however, address the fact that Facebook billed the Q2 report as its first such effort when it had already compiled, but chose not to release, the Q1 report.

He did, however, offer the following reason for not publishing the Q1 report:

But just what "fixes" the system needed were not disclosed. ®

Similar topics

Narrower topics


Other stories you might like

  • Ransomware encrypts files, demands three good deeds to restore data
    Shut up and take ... poor kids to KFC?

    In what is either a creepy, weird spin on Robin Hood or something from a Black Mirror episode, we're told a ransomware gang is encrypting data and then forcing each victim to perform three good deeds before they can download a decryption tool.

    The so-called GoodWill ransomware group, first identified by CloudSEK's threat intel team, doesn't appear to be motivated by money. Instead, it is claimed, they require victims to do things such as donate blankets to homeless people, or take needy kids to Pizza Hut, and then document these activities on social media in photos or videos.

    "As the threat group's name suggests, the operators are allegedly interested in promoting social justice rather than conventional financial reasons," according to a CloudSEK analysis of the gang. 

    Continue reading
  • Microsoft Azure to spin up AMD MI200 GPU clusters for 'large scale' AI training
    Windows giant carries a PyTorch for chip designer and its rival Nvidia

    Microsoft Build Microsoft Azure on Thursday revealed it will use AMD's top-tier MI200 Instinct GPUs to perform “large-scale” AI training in the cloud.

    “Azure will be the first public cloud to deploy clusters of AMD's flagship MI200 GPUs for large-scale AI training,” Microsoft CTO Kevin Scott said during the company’s Build conference this week. “We've already started testing these clusters using some of our own AI workloads with great performance.”

    AMD launched its MI200-series GPUs at its Accelerated Datacenter event last fall. The GPUs are based on AMD’s CDNA2 architecture and pack 58 billion transistors and up to 128GB of high-bandwidth memory into a dual-die package.

    Continue reading
  • New York City rips out last city-owned public payphones
    Y'know, those large cellphones fixed in place that you share with everyone and have to put coins in. Y'know, those metal disks representing...

    New York City this week ripped out its last municipally-owned payphones from Times Square to make room for Wi-Fi kiosks from city infrastructure project LinkNYC.

    "NYC's last free-standing payphones were removed today; they'll be replaced with a Link, boosting accessibility and connectivity across the city," LinkNYC said via Twitter.

    Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine said, "Truly the end of an era but also, hopefully, the start of a new one with more equity in technology access!"

    Continue reading
  • Cheers ransomware hits VMware ESXi systems
    Now we can say extortionware has jumped the shark

    Another ransomware strain is targeting VMware ESXi servers, which have been the focus of extortionists and other miscreants in recent months.

    ESXi, a bare-metal hypervisor used by a broad range of organizations throughout the world, has become the target of such ransomware families as LockBit, Hive, and RansomEXX. The ubiquitous use of the technology, and the size of some companies that use it has made it an efficient way for crooks to infect large numbers of virtualized systems and connected devices and equipment, according to researchers with Trend Micro.

    "ESXi is widely used in enterprise settings for server virtualization," Trend Micro noted in a write-up this week. "It is therefore a popular target for ransomware attacks … Compromising ESXi servers has been a scheme used by some notorious cybercriminal groups because it is a means to swiftly spread the ransomware to many devices."

    Continue reading
  • Twitter founder Dorsey beats hasty retweet from the board
    As shareholders sue the social network amid Elon Musk's takeover scramble

    Twitter has officially entered the post-Dorsey age: its founder and two-time CEO's board term expired Wednesday, marking the first time the social media company hasn't had him around in some capacity.

    Jack Dorsey announced his resignation as Twitter chief exec in November 2021, and passed the baton to Parag Agrawal while remaining on the board. Now that board term has ended, and Dorsey has stepped down as expected. Agrawal has taken Dorsey's board seat; Salesforce co-CEO Bret Taylor has assumed the role of Twitter's board chair. 

    In his resignation announcement, Dorsey – who co-founded and is CEO of Block (formerly Square) – said having founders leading the companies they created can be severely limiting for an organization and can serve as a single point of failure. "I believe it's critical a company can stand on its own, free of its founder's influence or direction," Dorsey said. He didn't respond to a request for further comment today. 

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022