Facebook executives weren't happy when their own data showed it perpetuates a right-wing echo chamber

Facebook executives weren't happy when their own data showed it perpetuates a right-wing echo chamber
President Donald Trump and Fox News host Sean Hannity. Ethan Miller/Getty Images
  • Facebook's best-performing pages in the US are often entirely right-wing publications.
  • The data demonstrating as much comes from Facebook's own measurement tool, CrowdTangle.
  • In private, Facebook executives have bristled at the data tool and what it shows, a report says.

Despite claims by some Republican politicians led by former President Trump that social-media sites censor conservative views, Facebook's data makes it clear: The social network's best-performing content is almost entirely from right- and far-right-wing publications and personalities.

That's according to CrowdTangle, a service Facebook owns and operates that has caused Facebook executives to bristle at what the tool shows to the public, a report said.

"Our own tools are helping journos to consolidate the wrong narrative," Nick Clegg, Facebook's VP of global affairs, said in an internal company email, The New York Times reported. Like Facebook's advertising transparency tools, CrowdTangle has been repeatedly used to demonstrate major criticisms of the tech and social-media giant - criticisms that Facebook executives would rather not have to defend in public.

Complimentary Tech Event
Transform talent with learning that works
Capability development is critical for businesses who want to push the envelope of innovation.Discover how business leaders are strategizing around building talent capabilities and empowering employee transformation.Know More

Perhaps most prominent is a Twitter tool created by the New York Times tech writer Kevin Roose that automatically pulls data from CrowdTangle every day that shows "the top-performing link posts by US Facebook pages in the last 24 hours, ranked by total interactions."

To break that down: posts containing links to something outside of Facebook that were shared within the past 24 hours by a US Facebook page. And the list is ranked from one to 10, depending on the total "interactions" - which includes "reactions, shares, and comments," Roose said.


As the data shows, the top-10 list of the most engaged pages is consistently dominated by the likes of Fox News host Sean Hannity, conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, and Christian evangelist Franklin Graham.

Before he was banned from Facebook following the January 6 attempted insurrection, Trump's pages dominated the lists.

That, among other metrics, is what led Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to tell Trump he was "number one" on the social-media platform in late 2019.

Internally, Facebook executives were divided over what to do with CrowdTangle and its data, the report said. Some Facebook executives are said to have argued for more data transparency, but others are said to have argued against the potential for more negative stories about Facebook to emerge.

"Facebook would love full transparency if there was a guarantee of positive stories and outcomes," Brian Boland, a former Facebook VP, told the Times. "But when transparency creates uncomfortable moments, their reaction is often to shut down the transparency."


Part of the reason Boland left Facebook, he said, was because "the company does not want to invest in understanding the impact of its core products."

Facebook representatives didn't respond to a request for comment as of publishing, but Facebook spokesperson Joe Osborne told the Times, "CrowdTangle is part of a growing suite of transparency resources we've made available for people, including academics and journalists." He added, "With CrowdTangle moving into our integrity team, we're developing a more comprehensive strategy for how we build on some of these transparency efforts moving forward."

Got a tip? Contact Insider senior correspondent Ben Gilbert via email (bgilbert@insider.com), or Twitter DM (@realbengilbert). We can keep sources anonymous. Use a nonwork device to reach out. PR pitches by email only, please.