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Andrea Austria / Media Matters

Research/Study Research/Study

NBC’s and ABC's nightly news shows ignored the Wall Street Journal's investigation of Facebook

Morning shows on CBS, NBC, and ABC each dedicated one segment to the topic

  • ABC’s evening news show World News Tonight and NBC’s evening news show Nightly News both failed to report on The Wall Street Journal’s investigation into a series of internal Facebook documents that show “its platforms are riddled with flaws that cause harm, often in ways only the company fully understands.” 

    Last week, the Journal published a series of articles showing that Facebook has allowed a variety of issues on its platforms to go unaddressed despite several years of media exposés, multiple congressional hearings, and a plethora of pledges from the company. These documents show, among other things, that Facebook has conducted large-scale internal reviews and research on several high-profile issues including:

    • The “cross check” or “XCheck” program, which exempted high-profile users from Facebook moderation rules.
    • A measurable negative affect on the mental health of Instagram users, especially teenage girls.
    • A content algorithm to boost user engagement that staffers warned was rewarding outrage.
    • Insufficient responses to flagged Facebook campaigns by drug cartels and human traffickers.
    • “Barrier to vaccination” content by anti-vaxxers, despite CEO Mark Zuckerberg pledging to make promotion of the COVID-19 vaccine “a top company priority.” 

    Media Matters reviewed the broadcast news networks’ evening newscasts from September 13 -- when the first Journal article was published -- through September 20 and found that neither ABC’s World News Tonight nor NBC’s Nightly News covered the investigation. Both networks' morning programs, Good Morning America and Today, ran a segment on the Journal’s investigation during the week. CBS covered the story on both its evening newscast, Evening News, and its morning show, CBS Mornings, on September 14 and 15, respectively. PBS’ Newshour covered the report in a segment on September 16.

    As Facebook continues to fail to address its issues with misinformation and hate speech, it is important that broadcast news shine a light on the company’s practices and not ignore these serious internal issues.

  • Methodology

  • Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream video database for all original programming on cable networks CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC and all original national news programming for ABC’s Good Morning America and World News Tonight, CBS’ CBS Morning and Evening News, NBC’s Today and Nightly News, and PBS’ NewsHour for either of the terms “Wall Street Journal” or “WSJ” within close proximity of either of the terms “Facebook” or “Zuckerberg” from September 13 through 20, 2021.

    We timed segments, which we defined as instances when the Wall Street Journal Facebook investigation was the stated topic of discussion or when we found significant discussion of the investigation. We defined significant discussions as instances when two or more speakers in a multitopic segment discussed the investigation with one another. In such instances, we timed only the relevant discussion. We rounded all times to the nearest minute.