Inside Facebook’s Data Wars – The New York Times


“The access scoreboard is not a complete win in terms of communication,” Mr. Silverman wrote.

Mr. Schultz, Facebook’s chief marketing officer, had the most vague view of CrowdTangle. He wrote that he thought Facebook would be “the only way to avoid stories like this” if it published its own reports on the most popular content on its platform, rather than posting data via CrowdTangle.

“If we just go the route of providing more self-service data, I think you’re going to get different exciting, negative stories,” he wrote.

Facebook spokesperson Mr. Osborne said that while Mr. Schultz and other executives discussed how to correct misrepresentations of the CrowdTangle data, they did not strategize on destroying the tool.

A few days after the November election, Mr. Schultz wrote a letter. post for company blog, “What People Really See on Facebook in the US?” He explained that if you sort Facebook posts by those with the most reach rather than the most engagement—his preferred method of slicing data—you’ll end up with a more general, less partisan list of sources.

“We believe this paints a more complete picture than just the CrowdTangle data,” he wrote.

This may be true, but there is a problem with access data: Most of it is inaccessible and cannot be reviewed or verified by outsiders. We just have to trust that Facebook’s own private data tells a very different story than the data it shares with the public.

Mr. Zuckerberg is right about one thing: Facebook is not a giant right-wing echo chamber.

But it is contain a giant right-wing echo chamber – a kind of AM talk radio nestled at the heart of Facebook’s news ecosystem, a hyper-disabled audience of loyal partisans, many of whom love to like, share, and click through posts from their right-wing pages. They have been successful in presenting a Facebook-optimized anger trap in a consistent clip.

CrowdTangle’s data made this echo chamber easy for outsiders to see and measure. But it didn’t create it or give it the tools it needs to grow – Facebook did – and it makes no more sense to blame a data tool for these revelations than a thermometer for bad weather.


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