Despite recent unfavorable media coverage and intensifying Congressional scrutiny, social media interactions with news stories about Facebook declined over the course of 2021, according to data from NewsWhip reported by Axios.
The most popular news stories about Facebook since March 2021 each involved former President Donald Trump, Axios reported. The Facebook Oversight Board’s decision to uphold Trump’s ban from the platform in May, for instance, coincided with the largest spike in social media engagement with Facebook-centered news stories. Later, the former president’s July lawsuit against Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg produced the second-highest jump in engagement.
Meanwhile, stories surrounding internal company documents leaked by former Facebook employee Frances Haugen did not produce a significant increase in social media interactions, the outlet reported.
Online searches for Facebook also declined over the course of 2021, according to data from Google Trends, with searches involving Facebook only increasing significantly when multiple Facebook platforms all went down at once.
Though reports based on the Facebook leaks may not have grabbed readers’ attention, they have further intensified mounting bipartisan scrutiny from lawmakers eager to rein in Facebook and other major tech companies.
Following the publication of the Facebook Files — the first batch of stories based on leaked Facebook documents and communications — lawmakers grilled Facebook executives Steve Satterfield and Antigone Davis in separate hearings over the perceived negative effects their platforms have on teen users and society as a whole. Former Facebook employee Frances Haugen testified on the leaks before the Senate in early October.
Republican Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley proposed legislation in late September stripping Section 230 liability protections from social media platforms who are found to have caused harm to children, while House Democrats proposed a bill removing Section 230 immunity from algorithmically-boosted content causing harm to users.
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