Connect with us


Internal Research from Facebook Shows that Re-Shares Can Significantly Amplify Misinformation



What if Facebook removed post shares entirely, as a means to limit the spread of misinformation in its apps? What impact would that have on Facebook engagement and interaction?

The question comes following the release of new insights from Facebook’s internal research, released as part of the broader ‘Facebook Files’ leak, which shows that Facebook’s own reporting found that post shares play a key role in amplifying misinformation, and spreading harm among the Facebook community.

As reported by Alex Kantrowitz in his newsletter Big Technology:

The report noted that people are four times more likely to see misinformation when they encounter a post via a share of a share – kind of like a retweet of a retweet – compared to a typical photo or link on Facebook. Add a few more shares to the chain, and people are five to ten times more likely to see misinformation. It gets worse in certain countries. In India, people who encounter “deep reshares,” as the researchers call them, are twenty times more likely to see misinformation.”

So it’s not direct shares, as such, but re-amplified shares, which are more likely to be the kinds of controversial, divisive, shocking or surprising reports that gain viral traction in the app. Content that generates emotional response sees more share activity in this respect, so it makes sense that the more radical the claim, the more re-shares it’ll likely see, particularly as users look to either refute or reiterate their personal stance on issues via third party reports.

And there’s more:

“The study found that 38% of all [views] of link posts with misinformation take place after two reshares. For photos, the numbers increase – 65% of views of photo misinformation take place after two reshares. Facebook Pages, meanwhile, don’t rely on deep reshares for distribution. About 20% of page content is viewed at a reshare depth of two or higher.

So again, the data shows that those more spicy, controversial claims and posts see significant viral traction through continued sharing, as users amplify and re-amplify these posts throughout Facebook’s network, often without adding their own thoughts or opinions on such.


So what if Facebook eliminated shares entirely, and forced people to either create their own posts to share content, or to comment on the original post, which would slow the rapid amplification of such by simply tapping a button?

See also  Snapchat Says That it Paid out More Than $250 Million to Spotlight Creators in 2021

Interestingly, Facebook has made changes on this front, potentially linked to this research. Last year, Facebook-owned (now Meta-owned) WhatsApp implemented new limits on message forwarding to stop the spread of misinformation through message chains, with sharing restricted to 5x per message.

Which, WhatsApp says, has been effective:

“Since putting into place the new limit, globally, there has been a 70% reduction in the number of highly forwarded messages sent on WhatsApp. This change is helping keep WhatsApp a place for personal and private conversations.”  

Which is a positive outcome, and shows that there is likely value to such limits. But the newly revealed research looked at Facebook specifically, and thus far, Facebook hasn’t done anything to change the sharing process within its main app, the core focus of concern in this report.

The company’s lack of action on this front now forms part of Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen’s legal push against the company, with Haugen’s lawyer calling for Facebook to be removed from the App Store if it fails to implement limits on re-shares.

Facebook hasn’t responded to these new claims as yet, but it is interesting to note this research in the context of other Facebook experiments, which seemingly both support and contradict the core focus of the claims.

In August 2018, Facebook actually did experiment with removing the Share button from posts, replacing it with a ‘Message’ prompt instead.

Facebook Share button

That seemed to be inspired by the increased discussion of content within messaging streams, as opposed to in the Facebook app – but given the timing of the experiment, in relation to the study, it seems now that Facebook was looking to see what impact the removal of sharing could have on in-app engagement.

See also  Instagram Adds Reels Replies, Providing Another Way to Tap into Short-Form Video

On another front, however, Facebook’s actually tested expanded sharing, with a new option spotted in testing that enables users to share a post into multiple Facebook groups at once.

Facebook share to groups prompt

That’s seemingly focused on direct post sharing, as opposed to re-shares, which were the focus of its 2019 study. But even so, providing more ways to amplify content, potentially dangerous or harmful posts, more easily, seems to run counter to the findings outlined in the report.

Again, we don’t have full oversight, because Facebook hasn’t commented on the reports, but it does seem like there could be benefit to removing post shares entirely as an option, as a means to limit the rapid re-circulation of harmful claims.

But then again, maybe that just hurts Facebook engagement too much – maybe, through these various experiments, Facebook found that people engaged less, and spent less time in the app, which is why it abandoned the idea.

This is the core question that Haugen raises in her criticism of the platform, that Facebook, at least perceptually, is hesitant to take action on elements that potentially cause harm if that also means that it could hurt its business interests.

Which, at Facebook’s scale and influence, is an important consideration, and one which we need more transparency on.

Facebook claims that it conducts such research with the distinct intent of improving its systems, as CEO Mark Zuckerberg explains:

If we wanted to ignore research, why would we create an industry-leading research program to understand these important issues in the first place? If we didn’t care about fighting harmful content, then why would we employ so many more people dedicated to this than any other company in our space – even ones larger than us? If we wanted to hide our results, why would we have established an industry-leading standard for transparency and reporting on what we’re doing?”

Which makes sense, but that doesn’t then explain whether business considerations factor into any subsequent decisions as a result, when a level of potential harm is detected by its examinations.


That’s the crux of the issue. Facebook’s influence is clear, its significance as a connection and information distribution channel is evident. But what plays into its decisions in regards to what to take action on, and what to leave, as it assesses such concerns?

See also  10 Tools to Help You Generate More Engaging Content Ideas for Your Blog [Infographic]

There’s evidence to suggest that Facebook has avoided pushing too hard on such, even when its own data highlights problems, as seemingly shown in this case. And while Facebook should have a right to reply, and its day in court to respond to Haugen’s accusations, this is what we really need answers on, particularly as the company looks to make even more immersive, more all-encompassing connection tools for the future.



New Legal Challenges Could Further Impact Elon Musk’s Twitter Takeover Push



Elon Musk Mulls Tender Offer for Twitter as an Alternative Path to Take Over the App

So as the fifth week of the Elon Musk Twitter takeover drama comes to a close, let’s just check in on how things are progressing.

Oh, it’s bad. Nothing good to see here.

This week, as Musk maintains that his $44 billion takeover offer remains ‘on hold’ due to questions over the accuracy of Twitter’s claim that 5% of its active users are fake, Twitter itself has faced its own drama, connected to the takeover push.

Having already lost several top executives, either directly or indirectly stemming from the pending change in ownership (as well as former CEO Jack Dorsey exiting the company entirely), Twitter is now facing a battle over its board members, with Silver Lake Partners’ Egon Durban resigning from the board after Twitter shareholders blocked his re-election.

Durban was given a Twitter board seat in 2020, following a push by Elliott Management Group to buy up Twitter shares, and force Jack Dorsey out of his position as CEO. Elliott’s view was that Dorsey was underperforming, and it partnered with Silver Lake to put pressure on the company to either improve its bottom line, or accept a change in management.

That lead to Twitter implementing tough new revenue and growth targets, which it recently admitted that it’s not on track to meet.  

In addition to his work with Twitter and various other public companies, Durban has also been a longtime ally of Elon Musk, and earlier this week, Twitter shareholders voted to stop Durban from being re-appointed, in a move that many viewed as a statement of protest, of sorts, from Twitter investors.


But as with all things Elon and Twitter, it’s not that simple – today Twitter itself has refused to accept Durban’s resignation.

See also  10 Tools to Help You Generate More Engaging Content Ideas for Your Blog [Infographic]

In a statement to the SEC, Twitter explained that Durban’s board re-election was likely rejected by shareholders due to him also serving on the board of six other publicly traded companies. Durban has vowed to take a step back from these other commitments, which Twitter says is enough to keep him on its team.

As per Twitter:

“While the Board does not believe that Mr. Durban’s other public company directorships will become an impediment if such engagements were to continue, Mr. Durban’s commitment to reduce his board service commitment to five public company boards by the Remediation Date appropriately addresses the concerns raised by stockholders with regard to such engagements. Accordingly, the Board has reached the determination that accepting Mr. Durban’s Tendered Resignation at this time is not in the best interests of the Company.”

Why does Twitter want to keep Durban on? It’s hard to say – especially given that Musk has noted that he’ll be looking to eliminate Twitter’s board if/when he becomes the platform’s owner.

The inclusion of representatives from key investors, however, may ensure Twitter maintains a level of stability, in case the deal goes south.

And there could be another key reason to maintain the link between Twitter’s board and Musk.

On another front, Twitter shareholders are also mulling a class-action lawsuit against Elon Musk over his Twitter takeover push, based on the allegation that Musk has ‘violated California corporate laws on several fronts’ with his Twitter acquisition commentary, effectively engaging in market manipulation.


As reported by CNBC:

In one potential violation, they claim that Musk financially benefited by delaying required disclosures about his stake in Twitter and by temporarily concealing his plan in early April to become a board member at the social network. Musk also snapped up shares in Twitter, the complaint says, while he knew insider information about the company based on private conversations with board members and executives, including former CEO Jack Dorsey, a longtime friend of Musk’s, and Silver Lake co-CEO Egon Durban, a Twitter board member whose firm had previously invested in SolarCity before Tesla acquired it.”

Maybe that’s why Twitter wants to keep Durban in-house, due to both his past dealings with Musk, which may help ease the deal through, or to assist shareholders in their class action.

See also  Trump circumvents Twitter ban to decry ‘unprecedented assault on free speech’

Durban’s current participation likely doesn’t hold any additional legal clout in this respect, but there may be some linkage between these two aspects of the increasingly messy Twitter deal.

And yes, there is still a possibility that the Musk takeover may not happen.

Musk himself has repeatedly and publicly vowed that he will not pay for the company unless it can convince him that its data on fake profiles is accurate – though Twitter maintains that there’s no such thing as the deal being ‘on hold’ and it’s continuing to prepare for the final transaction to be approved.

But there may also be other complications, with the SEC now investigating Musk’s conduct in the lead-up to his Twitter takeover push. Add to that his many public criticisms and disclosures, which border on market manipulation (as per the proposed shareholder action) and there could well be a breakpoint for Musk’s Twitter deal, where authorities simply veto the process entirely due to his conduct.

Could that be Musk’s plan? Various analysts have suggested that Musk is looking for a way out of the acquisition, and while the overall sentiment is that Musk will, eventually, be forced to pay-up, and take ownership of the app, there are still some legal cracks that he could explore that could end the transaction.


Which would be a disaster for Twitter.

While investors are unhappy with Musk right now, especially since his various comments and critiques have tanked the stock, Musk walking away would leave Twitter in a much lesser state, with many product leaders gone, and a declining share price that would be difficult to correct, given the various questions raised by Musk about its processes.

See also  TikTok Will Launch the First Stage of its LIVE Subscriptions Program This Week

Could Twitter get itself back on track, and back to growth, if Musk were to abandon his takeover push?

In essence, Musk walking away would be a big, public statement that Twitter is not a good investment, and as the media hype dies down, that could see interest in the app decline even further, harming growth for, potentially, years to come.

Maybe that, then, is Musk’s real intent here – to harm the company so much that it has no choice but to accept a lower offer price, which could save Elon himself millions in his takeover bid.

Either way, right now, it’s not looking good, and there are many moving parts that must be keeping current Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal up at night.

It still seems like the Elon era is coming, but when, exactly, is a whole other question.

Source link

Continue Reading

Subscribe To our Newsletter
We promise not to spam you. Unsubscribe at any time.
Invalid email address