Facebook Releases Shelved Transparency Report on Top Posts

Facebook has released a transparency report about the top posts in its U.S. News Feed during the first quarter 2021, after it was widely criticised. This report gives a glimpse at how widespread misinformation has spread about the covid-19 vaccination online.

The New York Times first reported that a news article suggesting that vaccines may have been responsible for the death of a Florida doctor was the most popular link on Facebook between January & March. This link received nearly 54 million visits during that time.

According to Facebook's report, the Epoch Times was one of the top 20 most popular pages during the first quarter. This site regularly spreads misinformation about covid-19 and far-right conspiracy theories such as QAnon.

Andy Stone, Facebook's policy communications director, tweeted Saturday that criticisms Facebook received for initially holding the report was not unfair. However, he added that it is difficult to define misinformation.

News outlets reported on the death of a doctor in south Florida. The Chicago Tribune added an update to the original story when the coroner gave a cause for death. NYTimes didn't. Is it right to delete the Times story, which was COVID [misinformation],? No. This is not what anyone is suggesting, and neither am I. It does show how difficult it can be to decipher misinformation.

Stone stated that Facebook did not release the report earlier due to key system fixes that the company wanted. Stone didn't give any details about the changes, but he did post a link to his report on Twitter. He stated that one of the changes involved fixing a technical problem, but declined to go into detail.

Stone noted that there were slight differences in this report, which was shelved, and the second quarter report Facebook released earlier this week. He also stated that Facebook expects to make even greater progress in the third trimester. On Aug. 18, Facebook released its Q2 report, showing the top posts in the U.S. between April and June. This paints the company in an even more positive light. While the Epoch Times is still prominent, its subscription page ranks among the top 10 most visited links. However, most of the top-performing posts were memes, recipes and heartwarming stories about animal welfare. There was also a lot of CBD products and Christianity-themed apparel.


It is not immediately clear what key changes Facebook made to the reports. They are almost identical if you compare them side-by-side. Facebook may use different words to explain its findings but the presentation of data remains unchanged. Facebook did not immediately return Gizmodos request for comment.

The only reason the first report was ever published was due to the backlash. Facebook praised itself for transparency in the second report, while hiding data sets that were deemed unacceptable. In a statement to The Post, Guy Rosen, vice president of Facebook, praised the social network for being the most transparent on the internet.


Stone posted on Twitter that we were guilty of clearing out our house before inviting company. This has been criticized, but it is not unfair. Given the interest in the original report that we didn't release, we decided to make it public. We are trying to make progress, even though it isn't glamorous.