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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?

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.

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?

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.



Key Notes on Building Your Brand via Your Social Profile Visuals [Infographic]


Key Notes on Building Your Brand via Your Social Profile Visuals [Infographic]

Looking to give your social profiles a visual refresh for the new year?

This could help – the team from Giraffe Social Media recently put together an overview of the whys and hows of building your brand via your social profile visuals.

There are some good notes here – a key consideration is consistency, which ensures that you’re building your brand with every post and update.

Check out the full infographic below.


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Publicis Performance Marketing Unit Acquires Influencer Platform Perlu 01/30/2023


Publicis Performance Marketing Unit Acquires Influencer Platform Perlu 01/30/2023

Publicis Groupe-owned performance marketing agency CJ, which specializes in affiliate marketing, has acquired Perlu, a Syracuse, New York-based influencer networking and technology platform.
Perlu’s platform enables companies to activate, network, and collaborate with a community of influencers.   

Perlu will initially retain its name and organization as it is
integrated …


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Reports Show that Facebook Usage is Up, as Meta Continues to Develop its AI Targeting Models


Reports Show that Facebook Usage is Up, as Meta Continues to Develop its AI Targeting Models

While Facebook is no longer the cool app, especially among younger audiences, it remains a key platform for many users, and its capacity to keep people updated on important updates from friends and family is likely to ensure that many continue to return to the app every day for some time yet.

But more than that, Facebook usage is actually increasing, according to internal insights viewed by The Wall Street Journal, which also include some interesting notes on overall Facebook and Instagram usage trends.

As per WSJ:

Data gathered in the middle of the fourth quarter showed that time spent on [Facebook] was up worldwide, including in developed markets, over the course of a year.”

Which seems unusual, given the subsequent rise of TikTok, and short form video more generally. But actually, Facebook has been able to successfully use the short-form video trend to drive more usage – despite much criticism of the platform’s copycat Reels feature.

Indeed, Reels consumption is up 20%, and has become a key element in Meta’s resurgence.  

How is it finding success? Increased investment in AI, which has driven big improvements in the relevance models that fuel both Reels and its ads, which are also now driving better response.

On Reels, Meta’s systems are getting much better at showing users the Reels content that they’re most likely to be interested in. You’ve likely noticed this yourself – what was initially a mess of random clips inserted into your Facebook feed has now become more focused, and you’re probably finding yourself expanding a Reels clip every now and then, just to see what it’s about.

Reels has actually been too successful:

“Because ads in Reels videos don’t currently sell for as much as those sold against regular posts and stories, Reels’ growing share of content consumption was denting ad revenue. To protect the company’s earnings, the company cut back on promoting Reels, which lowered watch time by 12%.

So again, while Meta has been criticized for stealing TikTok’s format, it’s once again shown, just as it did with Stories, that this is a viable and beneficial pathway to keeping users engaged in its apps.

You might not like it, but replication works in this respect.

But for marketers, it’s likely the development of Meta’s AI targeting tools for ads that’s of most interest.

Over time, many performance advertisers have been increasingly recommending that marketers trust Meta’s AI targeting, with newer offerings like Advantage+ driving strong results, with far less manual targeting effort.

Advantage+ puts almost total trust in Meta’s AI targeting systems. You can choose a couple of targeting options for your campaigns, but for the most part, the process is designed to limit manual impact, in order to let Meta’s systems determine the right audience for your ads.

Which may feel like you’re ceding too much control, but according to Meta, its continued AI investment is now driving better results.

Heavy investment in artificial intelligence tools has enabled the company to improve ad-targeting systems to make better predictions based on less data, according to the interviews and documents […] That, along with shifting to forms of advertising less dependent on harvesting user data from off its platforms, are key to the company’s plans to overcome an Apple privacy change that restricted Meta’s capacity to gather information about what its users do outside its platforms’ walls, the documents show.”

That’s likely worth considering in your process, putting more trust in Meta’s targeting systems to drive better results. At the least, it may be worth experimenting with Meta’s evolving AI for ad targeting. 

It’s not all good news. Meta also notes that while time spent in its apps is on the rise, creation and engagement is declining, with fewer people posting to both Facebook and Instagram than they have in the past.

That’s particularly true among younger audiences, while notably, usage of Instagram Stories is also in decline, down 10% on previous levels.

So while Meta is driving more engagement from Reels, which draws on content from across the app, as opposed to the people and Pages you follow, that’s also led to a decline in user posting.

Is that a bad thing? I mean, logically, engagement is important in keeping people interested in the app, and Meta also relies on those signals to help refine its ad targeting. So it does need users to be sharing their own content too, but if it can get more people spending more time in its apps, that will help it maintain advertiser interest.

In essence, despite all of the reports of Facebook’s demise, it remains a key connective platform, in various ways, while Meta’s improving ad targeting systems are also helping to drive better results, which will keep it as a staple for brands moving forward.

If you were thinking of diversifying your social media marketing spend this year, maybe don’t reduce Facebook investment just yet.


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