Facebook’s first ‘widely viewed content’ report argues political content isn’t actually popular

The most-viewed posts are boring text memes, according to Facebook.

Derick Hudson via Getty Images

Facebook really wants people to know that it’s most popular content isn’t political and it’s releasing a new report to try to prove it. The social network released its first-ever “Widely Viewed Content Report,” documenting what it claims is the most-viewed content on its platform during the second quarter of 2021 in the United States.

The report is Facebook’s rebuttal to commonly cited data that indicates posts from polarizing figures are consistently among the best-performing on the platform. Data from Facebook-owned CrowdTangle, an analytics platform, commonly shows posts from conservative figures and outlets like Newsmax, Fox News, Ben Shapiro and Dan Bongino get the most engagement.

Notably, none of those names appear in Facebook’s latest report, which included lists of top-performing domains, pages and specific public posts it said attracted the most eyeballs. Among the top domains were YouTube, Amazon, Unicef, GoFundMe, Spotify and TikTok. The most widely-viewed links included a website for an organization associated with former Green Bay Packers football players. That page drew more than 87 million viewers, according to Facebook. An online storefront for CBD products was #2 on the list, with 72 million views. A cat GIF from Tumblr with just over 49 million views was also on the list.

two of the most viewed posts, according to Facebook.

When it comes to the most viewed public pages, Facebook’s list included Unicef, as well as animal site The Dodo, LADbible, and Sassy Media and other publishers that have built media companies off of viral Facebook content. Notably, most of the content Facebook put forward in its report didn’t appear to be overtly political. "Many of the most-viewed Pages focused on sharing content about pets, cooking, family, and relatable viral content," Facebook wrote in a statement.

Interestingly, the most-viewed individual posts were all a collection of text-based memes, encouraging users to answer light-hearted (and mostly boring) questions, like what foods they don't like. The top such post was a year-old image challenging users to find three words hidden in a jumble of letters. The posts had more than 80 million views, according to Facebook.

Facebook widely viewed content

It’s not the first time Facebook has tried to counter perceptions that its most popular content is polarizing or political. The company says it will release the “widely viewed content” report on a regular basis to help people track what type of content is being seen the most.

“There's a few gaps in the data that's being used today, and the narrative that has emerged is quite simply wrong,” Facebook's VP of Integrity, Guy Rosen, said during a call with reporters. “CrowdTangle is focused on interaction, CrowdTangle only has a limited set of certain pages, groups, and accounts. We are creating a report that provides a broad view and … an accurate representation of what people’s experiences actually are on our platform.”

Notably, the report only looked at public posts, and didn't include data around posts that may have used non-public privacy settings. The company said it would evaluate how it gathers and shares information for future reports. The company also said that more than half of posts that users see in their News feeds comes from their family and friends, not from pages or groups they follow. Mark Zuckerberg said in January, following the election and the January 6th insurrection, that he wanted to make News Feeds less political.