Media literacy

Facebook’s Top Posts Fail Basic Media Literacy Tests

An overwhelming majority of the most popular Facebook posts in 2021 were posted by anonymous accounts and filled with unoriginal content, according to a new report.

The study, conducted by the Integrity Institute – a new nonprofit made up of former tech industry staff focusing on internet integrity – found that most of Facebook’s top posts in 2021 failed various media literacy tests. He used data from Facebook’s widely viewed content report, which the company began publishing last year.

“Overall, there has been quite a dramatic shift in content quality over the course of 2021, in a negative direction,” the study said. “By empowering content producers who fail the most basic media literacy checks with large audiences, Facebook exposes communities and users of their platform to significant risk from malicious actors wishing to exploit for narrow personal gain.”

Posts were rated poorly by the Institute if it was difficult to find the name of the user behind the post and if the content was not original, as well as if the posts were harmful or manipulative.

The Integrity Institute merged these scores into an overall “media literacy check” which it used to qualify the content of the report.

The most viewed pages on Facebook have sketchy transparency at best. The most viewed Facebook page in the fourth quarter of 2021 – with more than 121 million views – was taken down for violating community services guidelines, according to the Facebook report. The second most viewed page, Thinkarete, promotes products from a website called Linda’s Kitchen. Linda’s Kitchen uses stock images on its about page and claims its CEO is “Robert Downey Jr.” and uses an online retail plugin for WordPress while referring to itself as “Martfury” on pages, which is the name of the plugin. Thinkarete, on the other hand, is operated by “All Food Recipes Inc.” according to his Facebook page. All Food Recipes Inc. is said to be based in Utah and owned by someone with a different name who lives in Arizona.

The fifth most viewed page is Newsner, which Facebook says is run by “nyheter365 AB”, which cannot be found on Facebook. Newsner and “nyheter365 AB” appear to be related to N365 Group, a web-optimized content generation company based in Sweden that claims to be a “Meta Business Partner”. Thinkarete and Newsner, according to the report, lack transparency and would be difficult to track for someone who is not tech-savvy.

“As long as content that fails basic media literacy can be widely disseminated on the platform, the platform exposes all communities to exploitation,” the report said.

The data showed how easily groups can spread misinformation by exploiting Facebook’s algorithms. The report also states that Facebook and Instagram, which are owned by parent company Meta, are unique in their high prevalence of high-performing non-original and anonymous content, compared to other sites online.

The Integrity Institute offered possible solutions to the Facebook problem at the end of the study, citing the Google Search algorithm.

“Facebook could define anonymous, unoriginal content as ‘low quality’, create a system to rate content quality, and incorporate those quality scores into its final ranking ‘value model’,” the report said.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request from the Daily Dot about the study.


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*First published: March 30, 2022, 5:21 p.m. CDT

Jacob Seitz

Jacob Seitz is a freelance journalist from Columbus, Ohio interested in the intersection of culture and politics.

Jacob Seitz


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