What’s Trending? 📈 To Ban or Not to Ban

CAP Action
4 min readFeb 5, 2021

This piece was originally published in the February 4, 2022 edition of CAP Action’s weekly newsletter, What’s Trending? Subscribe to What’s Trending? here.

Hey, y’all,

One of my favorite things about social media analytics is busting assumptions. It’s easy to take a narrative for granted when it’s all over your social media feed. But when you zoom out and look at a platform holistically, it usually tells a different story.

This week’s discussions around censorship provide a good example.

Read on to learn more. But first, in case you missed it, check out our January 28 edition of What’s Trending?

WHAT’S TRENDING THIS WEEK

WHAT WE’RE HEARING ON SOCIAL

Progressives authored two of the top ten political posts of the past week, down from five the week prior. Joe Biden’s post about the new White House cat, Willow, led all political posts in interactions by a significant margin, and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden’s post also featured in the top ten.

Otherwise, the majority of progressive posts focused on banned books, largely in response to a Tennessee school board’s recent decision to ban the graphic novel Maus. This topic resonated widely on Facebook, with a post from the Frontline getting over 133,000 shares — the first time this page has ever appeared in our top 10, and the most engagement on any of their posts in our database.

Conservative top posts were more varied, with references to the Canadian trucker strike over COVID-19 mandates in a graphic and a live clipping painting the strike as an opposition to the “tyranny” of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. There were no fewer than three posts from Breitbart and Ben Shapiro on Whoopi Goldberg’s possible departure from the daytime talk show The View. And there were two posts referencing various artists’ decisions to leave Spotify over the platform’s decision to keep Joe Rogan on the air as one of their premier exclusive podcast hosts, despite him promoting COVID misinformation.

Top 10 progressive and conservative Facebook posts by interactions, according to data from NewsWhip
Top 10 political Facebook posts by interactions for the weeks of January 20th and 27th, according to data from NewsWhip
Top 10 Facebook posts from progressive pages over the last week, according to data from NewsWhip.
Top 10 Facebook posts from conservative pages over the last week, according to data from NewsWhip.

DEEP DIVE

The top posts of the week centered around largely similar topics — questions of censorship, what sort of content is appropriate to promote, and what crosses a line. We looked at how widely these topics spread across Facebook and how they measured up against the biggest names in political Facebook.

Few conservative pages engaged in the conversation around book banning and Maus, despite these actions stemming from a year-long effort to get conservatives more involved in local school boards and make “critical race theory” a wedge issue. With only progressive and more neutral media pages amplifying the story, interactions were relatively low.

However, in regard to Spotify and Joe Rogan, pages across the political spectrum engaged, with conservative pages celebrating Rogan as a persecuted figure and progressives lauding the boycotts by Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and others. Between Jan 25th and February 2nd, posts that mentioned Spotify generated more interactions (10.4 million) than posts that mentioned Donald Trump (9.9 million) — seen below.

Total Facebook interactions for posts referencing topic keywords, according to data from NewsWhip (U.S. pages only)

This data demonstrates how successful Neil Young’s boycott was in generating a national conversation. But it also dovetails with an ongoing trend, where progressives take stands on big national issues that draw media attention, and conservatives prioritize gaining and wielding local power in a way that is quickly glossed over by large media outlets.

We’ll do our best to continue highlighting the most important stories on Facebook, whether they be local, national, or virtual.

Thanks for reading,

Alex

P.S. Please do forward along to your friends who are interested or encourage them to sign up here.

This newsletter is written by me, Alex Witt (@alexandriajwitt), a progressive political staffer and Dolly Parton enthusiast (she/her), and CAP Action’s fantastic team of designers, data analysts, and email strategists.

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CAP Action

Hard-hitting news + analysis paired with action on the issues that matter most. Working alongside @AmProg.