But in trying to do so, he’s shown something else: The most popular content on Facebook is often horrible, recycled generic memes.
It’s not necessarily surprising that reposting already popular memes gets views on Facebook, but “it’s imperative to monitor where the attention this content is attracting” for attempts to funnel this attention into scams, extremism and disinformation, says Karan Lala. , fellow and editor-in-chief of the Integrity Institute, an organization founded by former employees of Facebook’s integrity team to research and advise the public on the inner workings of social media platforms. Lala recently published an investigation in the economy of spam on Facebook.
The top 20 posts by views on Facebook in the most recent report are overwhelmingly republished memes that were originally created for other platforms. Many of the pages responsible for them belong to Instagram viral content accounts with names like Ideas365 or Factsdailyy. There are two meme reposts by Johnny Depp on the list, with nearly 100 million views between them. Two of the 20 most viewed posts are not featured in the report because Meta removed them for violating its policies on intellectual property or inauthentic behavior.
The main issue here isn’t necessarily one of safety: the most popular content on Facebook feels more like boomer bait than anything designed to engage the younger audiences Meta is courting. But as Lala points out, relatively benign meme accounts and potentially harmful accounts that post memes to draw attention to some specific place are hard to tell apart on the surface.
Ideas365 and Factsdailyy seem similar at first: they are both Instagram meme accounts that get huge numbers of views on Facebook. They each post around half a dozen short videos a day. Its content is generic. But looking closer, Lala noticed a few key differences: Factsdaily’s bio contains contact information, and each post credits the source of the meme it’s reposting. At first glance, this account is probably just a normal old meme account.
On the contrary, Ideas365, the page that published the family dispute video at the top of Facebook’s most viewed list for this quarter—drives traffic to a site that sells courses to make money selling things on Amazon. While the account credits the source of some memes, it is using the attention those memes get to advertise questionable services. Their story highlights advertise a “tutoring” program that promises to teach students how to create automated Instagram accounts for profit. “The user behind the account mentions that he owns over 250 themed pages on Instagram and earns ‘hundreds of thousands a month’ from his phone. This is also complete with flashy videos of the user’s many luxury cars,” added Lala.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with being a spammy meme page, of course. The harm here isn’t that the account is using short-form video on Meta to get people to sign up for an expensive course, Lala says: “As we head into election season, it’s important to note that this attention could just as easily be directed toward disinformation or other harm using similar tactics.” Last year, MIT Technology Review revealed the extent to which global content farms have become adept at using Meta’s own incentive structures to profit directly from content. popular, whether it’s memes about a celebrity breakup or misinformation about a divisive topic.
Meta also provides data on the most viewed domains and external links. In this report, five of the top 20 links were removed for inauthentic behavior (the top link was, of course, to TikTok). And the list of most viewed domains (perhaps the part of this report that is designed to more directly counter CrowdTangle data) showed a mix of competitors like YouTube and TikTok, major news sites and GoFundMe.