Meta is reportedly planning to shut down CrowdTangle, a tool that tracks popular social media posts

One thing researchers have used to track the spread of viral stories on Facebook—including those spreading misinformation—is a tool called Meta CrowdTangle. Based on unknown sources, bloomberg reports what many suspect – that Facebook has largely removed development support from CrowdTangle and plans to discontinue the tool.

Removing CrowdTangle has seen people like Kevin Rouge use the surface of data showing high engagement with right-wing news sources on Facebook, listing results that sometimes seem to contradict Facebook’s curated official reports. In an article from last July new York TimesIn what Roose described as internal “data wars” over how much information the company should release, CrowdTangle founder and CEO Brandon Silverman argued that it should share more data. Silverman left the company in October 2021.

“What data is CrowdTangle tracking?”

CrowdTangle is a public insights tool from Facebook that helps publishers, journalists, researchers, fact-checkers and more to follow, analyze, and report on what’s happening on social media. We make public content more discoverable from Pages, Groups, Instagram accounts and popular subreddits, and it’s easier to mass sort the engagement data on that content, (ie shares, views, comments, and reactions). CrowdTangle does not track the contents of a regular Facebook profile.

in a twitter threadJohn Hegman, the head of Facebook’s News Feed, argued that Rouge’s Daily Top 10 Lists (compiled based on CrowdTangle data) show accurate engagement data but “do not represent what most people see on FB.” He claims a better way to prove this would be through data showing which posts get the most reach, but the company usually doesn’t share that data directly.

When Facebook bought CrowdTangle in 2016, it said the tool could help publishers “surface stories that matter, measure their social performance, and identify influencers.” It tracks the performance of stories on other networks including Instagram and Twitter. bloomberg The report describes how voter advocacy group Common Cause has used it to find real-time misinformation that has been flagged on Twitter and Facebook for removal.

Today’s report says that Meta began an official process to shut down the tool in February, but it was put on hold due to the advance of the European Union’s Digital Services Act. It is now on track to “finally” close, with Facebook engineers already assigned the task. Company spokesperson said bloomberg that CrowdTangle will remain active at least through this year’s midterm elections and claimed that Meta plans to provide an “even more valuable” tool for researchers.

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