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This piece was originally published in the April 28, 2021 edition of CAP Action’s weekly newsletter, What’s Trending? Subscribe to What’s Trending? here.
Last week, the White House held a Climate Summit to help reestablish U.S. leadership on combating global climate change. We’ll look at how that content performed within the broader political Facebook landscape.
But first, did you miss the latest edition of What’s Trending? Don’t worry — you can read it here.
WHAT’S TRENDING THIS WEEK
- CW, police violence: Last Tuesday, a jury found Derek Chauvin guilty on three counts for the murder of George Floyd.
- Vaccines: On Thursday, the United States officially hit 200 million vaccines administered since President Biden took office, achieving his goal of 200 shots within his first 100 days ahead of schedule. Nearly 96 million Americans are now fully vaccinated, and over 140 million have received at least one dose.
- Climate summit: Last week, the White House hosted the Leaders Summit on Climate where President Biden announced a pledge to cut U.S. greenhouse gas pollution in half by 2030. The new target, to be made possible in part by provisions in the American Jobs Plan, will help the United States combat the climate crisis, create millions of jobs, and build a clean energy economy here at home.
- The American Rescue Plan: On Monday, the Biden administration announced a summer food program as part of an ongoing effort to address hunger and food insecurity in the U.S. Funded through the American Rescue Plan, the program will provide 34 million children with money to buy food for the 10 weeks they are out of school in the summer.
WHAT WE’RE HEARING ON SOCIAL
Conservatives vs. LeBron: Conservatives rallied together in response to a tweet (and later, the deletion of said tweet) by LeBron James in response to Ma’Khia Bryant’s killing by Columbus, Ohio police, while progressive posts were less aligned and ranged from celebrating Earth Day to promoting the American Rescue Plan and personal posts.
The top-performing political Facebook post by interactions was from Candace Owens this week, and seven of the top 10 posts were from accounts on the right.
Looking at this data, you might be surprised that last week, President Biden convened 40 world leaders for a much-publicized climate summit aimed at galvanizing partners into taking action on global climate change. In fact, the top 10 posts about the environment received 1.7 million fewer interactions than those about LeBron and/or conservative takes on police violence.
On the left, the environmental content that performed best:
- Came from accounts with significant reach and audience engagement (think President Biden, Barack Obama, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez)
- Offered hope and plans to address the crisis
- Framed the United States as being back in a position of global leadership on the issue
As for top content on the right: Police violence is a critically-important topic that should be a part of our online civic discourse. But what conservatives are posting isn’t productive — they are exploiting the deaths of Black people at the hands of police to drive racist outrage, and that is despicable.
We’ve covered this many times before, but a big part of the reason progressives are being consistently outperformed by the right on Facebook is, in the words of a Facebook spokesperson, that conservative pages speak to “an incredibly strong, primitive emotion” and do so by using topics like “nation, protection, the other, anger, fear.” In other words, racism.
This raises an important question: When should progressives respond to overwhelming, dominant narratives on the right? The climate summit was an incredibly important, global event, yet it barely broke through on Facebook.
Facebook is well aware that their platform is a hotbed for right-wing disinformation and bigotry. But it’s clear that until it takes action against the vile content on its platform, it’s in the hands of digital and communications strategists to decide how to address the problem — and the current strategy of simply ignoring the right’s messaging and trying to shout louder is not working.
Dan Pfeiffer outlined what he called the new method of rapid response in yesterday’s edition of Message Box. I highly encourage you to check it out.
SAY IT WITH ME
- The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law held a hearing today on the ways social media algorithms and amplification impact our public discourse and minds.
- You can read more about the hearing here, but basically, tech execs are still refusing to admit that their practices are addictive and (again) elevate problematic discourse, despite lots of evidence to the contrary.
Thanks for reading,
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 strategist and Dolly Parton enthusiast (she/her). I’ve managed social media programs for presidential candidates, political committees, progressive advocacy organizations, and more.
The positions of American Progress, and our policy experts, are independent, and the findings and conclusions presented are those of American Progress alone. A full list of supporters is available here. American Progress would like to acknowledge the many generous supporters who make our work possible.
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Explore The Series
Welcome to “What's Trending?”, a weekly newsletter to help progressives answer the age-old questions: What works, and what doesn't? “What's Trending?” cuts through the noise to bring you the best (and worst) of what's happening on social media in the policy space, and explains why it's important.