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  • Khushboo Pareek

Mozilla urges Meta to keep CrowdTangle alive until after elections



The Mozilla Foundation and numerous research and advocacy organisations are opposing Meta's plan to shut down its research tool, CrowdTangle, which is used by thousands of journalists and other researchers to keep an eye on influential accounts on social media at scale.


The companies wrote an open letter, and urge Meta to keep CrowdTangle operational until after the 2024 elections.


Published by the Mozilla Foundation, a global non-profit dedicated to keeping the internet a global public resource that is open and accessible to all, and signed by 90 groups, as well as the former CEO of CrowdTangle, the letter arrives a week after Meta's confirmation of shutting down the tool in August 2024.


The signatories claim that Meta's decision will hinder outside observers, including election integrity experts, from monitoring Facebook and Instagram if the tool is killed.


More than 40 countries are slated to witness elections in 2024, including India and the US, two of the biggest democracies on Earth.


"This means almost all outside efforts to identify and prevent political disinformation, incitements to violence, and online harassment of women and minorities will be silenced. It’s a direct threat to our ability to safeguard the integrity of elections," the letter reads.


CrowdTangle is a social media analytics tool that allows users to monitor and analyse engagement, trends, and performance across various social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, and Reddit.


It is commonly used by journalists, researchers, and other organisations to track trending topics, monitor public sentiment, and identify influential content.


Founded by Brandon Silverman and acquired by Meta (then Facebook) in 2016, CrowdTangle has been used for highlighting important trends, including data for "Facebook's Top 10," a Twitter bot that shared daily updates on the most-engaged-with Facebook posts containing links.

 

However, the project is no longer active. The bot, created by a New York Times reporter, often highlighted far-right and conservative pages receiving high engagement. The revelation led Facebook executives to dispute the accuracy of the data, arguing it didn't truly reflect what was popular on the platform.


As CrowdTangle prepares to close in August, Meta is promoting a new tool called the Meta Content Library in its stead.


The programme offers researchers access to public data in a more organised manner, the company claimed.


Meta claims it's more robust than CrowdTangle, but tightly controlled. Nonprofits and academic institutions need approval to use it. However, most journalists won't qualify as it's primarily for non-profit users and the vast majority of newsrooms are for-profit entities.


Silverman claimed that the Content Library isn't as comprehensive as CrowdTangle. While it offers more data in some areas, there are significant gaps that make it an inadequate replacement.


"There are some areas where the MCL has way more data than CrowdTangle ever had, including reach and comments in particular,” Brandon Silverman wrote in a post on Substack.


"But there are also some huge gaps in the tool, both for academics and civil society, and simply arguing that it has more data isn’t a claim that regulators or the press should take seriously," he added.


In a post on X, Andy Stone, a spokesperson from Meta wrote, "The Meta Content Library is designed to contain more comprehensive data than CrowdTangle (for instance, comments as a data type are coming in April)."

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