There's a lot of weird stuff happening on Facebook, and our readers often send us tips and screenshots of strange happenings from their News Feeds. This week, we received an unusual one. It was sent to us in the wake of a Wall Street Journal report about an internal conflict at Facebook over Donald Trump's xenophobic posts on the social network. The tipster sent us a screenshot of a poll from their News Feed that asked, "Are you concerned about America's future if Donald Trump becomes president?" Image: Getty / Facebook / Adam Clark Estes
Image: Screenshot from a Gizmodo tipster. Its authenticity has been verified by Facebook.
At face value, the poll appears to be one Facebook itself is conducting. The screenshot shows the words "Facebook would like to hear from you" (emphasis original) across the top of the post, and it even shows Facebook's logo where a profile photo would normally be. At the bottom of the post is a message that reads: "Facebook will keep your identity confidential."
But the post also explicitly states it's a sponsored poll, and when we reached out to Facebook, a spokesperson confirmed that "this was an advertiser-sponsored poll". After a short follow up email sent for clarification, the spokesperson said, "Correct, not created by Facebook."
So who created the poll, and why is it anonymous? Unfortunately, we're not sure. Facebook said it couldn't disclose what campaign or entity was doing the polling, but the spokesperson did mention that this kind of anonymity is available to all advertisers. Facebook clearly outlines pricing of its different polling packages, but the company does not advertise anonymous polling. When I briefly tried to replicate the poll, I was unable to, and Facebook did not respond to my request for information about how such a poll can be created.
The company was also unable to provide any statistics about which users are able to participate in polls, how many are conducted or any other questions that would give us an idea of the scope of the polling operation. The spokesperson sent a link to this Adweek story to "demonstrate it's been existence for years". It's also important to note that Facebook has used polls in the past to ask about user experience.
The social media company has been under fire this entire election over its role as a news provider. In May, Gizmodo first reported allegations that the bias of Facebook's trending news curators was influencing what millions of users were (and weren't) able to see in their trending modules. The previous month, we reported that Facebook employees had asked Mark Zuckerberg in an internal poll: "What responsibility does Facebook have to help prevent President Trump in 2017?" More recently, the Wall Street Journal reported on Facebook employees arguing internally about whether to remove Donald Trump's posts about banning Muslims on the premise that they violated the site's rules on hate speech.