A Curious Facebook Mystery
Read to the end for a good tweet about email
What Was The Most Popular Page On Facebook Doing?
This week, Facebook released the Widely Viewed Content Report for the last last quarter of 2021. It covers US content from October 1, 2021 to December 31, 2021 and there are some really interesting takeaways. And, also, a very big mystery. But before we get to that, some observations.
According to the report, 51% of Facebook users get most of their content from friends and family. The second largest content source for users is groups. Even more interesting, 85% of news feed content does not include a link. As for posts that do have links, the most popular URL on Facebook is youtube.com. Which is something I pointed out earlier this month when I published a big analysis on the Freedom Convoy movement. Right-wing communities, in particular, love sharing conspiracy theories from YouTube because the outside URL provides a curatorial benefit for them. “Look what I found,” etc.
What I had noticed during some additional research into the Freedom Convoy I did for The Verge was that TikToks seemed really popular on Facebook, as well. This new Widely Viewed Content Report confirms this. The second most popular URL on Facebook is tiktok.com. The third is gofundme.com, which is such a grim indictment of America that I don’t want to even dwell on it.
The most viewed post on Facebook in the US between October 1, 2021 to December 31, 2021 was a viewed titled, “This is how you raise your daughter 💯,” which depicts a soccer player yelling at a woman ref up until a male ref shows up and defends her. That’s how you raise your daughter, I guess! All the metrics for the video are broken, though, because the page that posted it seems to no longer exist. But the report is actually full of links to dead pages. Which leads us to the big mystery.
According to Facebook, the most widely viewed page in the US was taken down “for violating Community Standards.” And the platform won’t say what those standards are. Even more curious, the most viewed link on Facebook was from a TikTok page that doesn’t exist anymore either. And if you search the ID number of the now-deleted page, you get Google search results for a page with the same name as the now deleted TikTok account. They both belong to some kind of viral publisher called “That ain’t right”.
According to what we can see from Google’s cache, the That ain’t right page was posting an incredible amount of junk, but it was also posting a very specific kind of junk. Most of the posts, which can be seen here, are image macros that ask for some kind of engagement. Like the picture of french fries up there, which is captioned, “only pick 2.” Which would then led users to argue about their favorite french fries in the comments.
Unfortunately, whatever @thataintrightofficial was posting on TikTok is gone. I couldn’t even find still-active duets with the page’s content. Though, according to Google’s cache, it wasn’t a huge page. It only had around 3,000 followers. If I had to guess, I’d say that the person behind the That ain’t right Facebook page realized that content shared from TikTok was doing well and made a TikTok account to capitalize on this.
A lot of journalists and researchers are upset that Facebook’s transparency team isn’t being, well, transparent about what this page was doing and how it violated the platform’s standards. Which would definitely be helpful for understanding the nature of Facebook in America right now, but the missing information in this report doesn’t mean it isn’t telling us some very interesting things about the current health of Facebook.
I spent a lot of time going over their last transparency report. It was full of similar junk, and many of the same top pages, but it was not nearly as incomplete as this new one. The Q3 transparency report was full of viral garbage and dropshipping scams and stolen video content, but most of that content was still live. I suspect Facebook’s moderation team thinks that this newest report, which is full of dead links to accounts and posts that have been removed, makes them look more proactive, but instead, I think it actually reflects exactly how rotten the whole platform is. These removed pages, like That ain’t right, weren’t just hiding off in some corner of the site. They were responsible for the site’s most popular content! And according to their own report, this is the content that is actually being shared between friends and families. That, to me, in damning.
I’ve always read these Widely Viewed Content Reports as a bit of smokescreen, a way for Facebook to assuage the fears of Republicans that they’re being censored and the fears of liberals that the platform is a Nazi factory. The company decided that it’s better to expose themselves as slightly irrelevant by revealing the actual junk that people are sharing and engaging with than get sucked into a political fight. But I think in doing so, they’ve also exposed just how bad the content on the site is. And as TikTok is literally eating the platform from the inside with more popular and, somehow, higher value, content, it’s painting an incredibly dire picture for Facebook.
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4chan Is Taking Credit For The Sam Hyde As The “Ghost Of Kyiv” Hoax
So this is a bit of an internet content rats nest. Last week, Adam Kinzinger, a US representative for Illinois, tweeted about the “Ghost of Kyiv,” the probably not real Ukrainian fighter pilot that was credited with taking down Russian jets. Kinzinger has since deleted his tweet, which, itself, was a quote tweet of another user named @RaulBrando. The original @RaulBrando tweet is still live and pinned to the top of the account’s timeline. The picture in @RaulBrando’s tweet was a photo of the comedian Sam Hyde, whose picture is routinely circulated by trolls as a mass shooter. It’s a long-running game to get people in politics or the media to incorrectly share Hyde’s photo during a breaking news situation.
Tucker Carlson jumped on Kinzinger for sharing the Hyde photoshop, which, tbh, even if you didn’t know about Sam Hyde, should have been extremely obvious to anyone that it was fake. And, now, following Carlson’s Fox News segment about it, a user on 4chan’s /k/ board, which focuses on weapons, is taking credit for the photoshop.
It’s obviously hard to confirm that anyone did anything on 4chan, but I can confirm that the picture was circulating on 4chan last week. I also couldn’t find anything to link the @RaulBrando account to an obvious troll operation but it does share a lot of right-wing content. It has 94 followers and describes itself as a journalist from Toronto and before the invasion of Ukraine, the account was posting a mix of convoy updates and NFL news.
Also, in the course of writing this item, I actually came across like three or four viral tweets from Kenzinger in the last week that were just completely not true, so maybe, beyond keeping an eye out for 4chan pranks, just don’t follow him for reliable updates about the conflict in Ukraine.
They Keep Trying To Make The Great Reset Conspiracy Happen
Over the weekend, a Ukrainian journalist and activist named Daria Kaleniuk broke down in tears, demanding British Prime Minister Boris Johnson do more to support Ukraine. The clip went viral and is now being tied into a far-right conspiracy surrounding the World Economic Forum. I wrote about this last week, but following the absolute flop of the Freedom Convoy, right-wing activists started spreading a conspiracy that the WEF was somehow behind Canada’s shutdown of the protests.
The anti-WEF conspiracy got a bunch of attention thanks to Joe Rogan’s podcast, but it’s also been kicking around YouTube for over a year. It’s largely based on the WEF’s absolutely idiotic decision to rebrand their COVID recovery strategy “The Great Reset,” which caught the attention of the big brain geniuses in QAnon and the right-wing publishers that make a living dog-whistling to them.
Those publishers, this week, discovered that Kaleniuk is a member of the WEF’s Young Global Leaders program and are now accusing her of being a Soros-linked plant.
My big takeaway is that a lot of this is just really desperate. The English-speaking right wing still really can’t figure out how to hijack the invasion of Ukraine to make it all about them. Also, particularly in America, post-Trump, there is no longer a coalition between the conservatives who absolutely love war and the conservatives who want to be completely shut off from the rest of the world and be allowed to build their hermetically-sealed ethnostate. But I do have warn that, historically, this level of desperate chaos doesn’t last and the right will find a narrative that works for them.
Holding The When We Were Young Festival Hostage
I completely missed this last month, but the seminal MySpace screamo act, isetmyfriendsonfire, got into a hilarious feud with that super sketchy Las Vegas emo festival, When We Were Young. isetmyfriendsonfire were not asked to be a part of the festival so they retaliated by buying whenwewereyoungfest.com and an Instagram with the same handle and then “proceeded to hold them hostage” until When We Were Young asked them to play.
The stunt worked and the band shared screenshots of them getting an invite and then, surprisingly, they announced they were turning it down. The band at the end of January explained the whole thing, writing that they wanted to make a statement about the “big bad clique” of agents and show promoters that run the music industry.
I’ll be honest, I assume there is some kind of shadowy record label illuminati deciding who tours with who and when, but I have some doubts that that industry cabal is actively invested in pulling the strings behind a Las Vegas emo nostalgia cash grab. But who knows! Here’s a good video breaking down the whole stunt. It seems to have worked out for isetmyfriendsonfire, they ended up being able to use the low-level virality to sell a lot of tickets for their new tour.
Speaking of the scene, a YouTube musician named Todd Barriage recently put out a video called “'emo girl' by MGK but the chorus is pretty good” and I think it delivers.
Sanctions In A World Of Digital Currencies
The title I gave this sounds super serious, but I didn’t really know how else to describe it. Basically, there are a bunch of in-game currencies, ones that aren’t even blockchain based, that are now, following sanctions against Russia, performing better than the ruble. Earlier this week, the ruble slid below the worth of Robux, the in-game currency for the online sweatshop/black market/casino app for children, Roblox.
And, as the ruble’s worth has slide even more, a redditor over at r/Hearthstone figured out that gold, the currency used in the trading card video game, is currently worth $0.015 based on the fact that two packs of cards in the game cost $2.99, or 200 gold. And, as I write this, the ruble is currently worth $0.0089.
Check Out… The Disc
A Shitposter Discovers A Gas Leak
OK, I have been trying to fit this in the newsletter for days now. A Twitter user named @poisonjr, last August, went viral for this wildly incomprehensible and NSFW tweet.
Most people didn’t seem to really question it, though, because weird stuff like this goes viral on Twitter all the time. A lot of the content on @poisonjr’s account was kind of like this. Well, last week, @poisonjr posted a very important update on the bee wings tweet:
According to @poisonjr, they’ve spent the last six months in a stupor because they’ve been sleeping next to a gas leak. Obviously, like anything people post on the internet, take this with a grain of salt, but, if you go back through @poisonjr’s account, a gas leak actually makes a lot of sense. Here’s a good Tumblr thread with even more tweets from poisonjr’s gas leak era.
Maybe the secret to viral success is prolonged exposure to dangerous mind-altering chemicals?
A Baby Says Her First Words On Stream
This is very cute! It happened on a stream from Arex the Bold, an American Twitch user who lives in Japan and plays a lot of RPGs. My favorite part is when the toddler says “good night,” and someone in the chat immediately says, “POG” lol.
Some Stray Links
P.S. here’s a good tweet about email.
BONUS: Funding A War Effort In The Attention Economy
We’re back with some more bonus garbage! For paying subs, this will look like just another item in the email. For free readers, you’ll be hit with a paywall.
This week, I spoke to Emerson T. Brooking, a resident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Lab and the coauthor of the book LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media. He specializes in information warfare and open-source intelligence, or, as it’s better known, OSINT. I thought Brooking would be a good person to poise a question to that I’ve been wrestling with over the last week:
Does a meme war mean anything when bombs start dropping?