Meta removes tool against misinformation

(Washington) CrowdTangle, a software considered essential for spotting and analyzing misinformation on Facebook and Instagram, will be decommissioned by the social media giant Meta, to the dismay of many researchers and journalists in this major election year.

Meta said CrowdTangle would no longer be available after August 14, less than three months before the US election.

The Palo Alto company plans to replace it with a new tool that researchers say does not have the same functionality.

For years, and particularly during previous electoral cycles, CrowdTangle has allowed its users to follow in real time the spread of conspiracy theories, incitements to violence or manipulation campaigns led from abroad.

According to experts, the removal of the tool is part of the current trend of large digital platforms to reduce transparency. A trend that is all the more worrying as the elections are conducive to the dissemination of false information which harms the democratic process.

“In this year when almost half of the world’s population is called to vote, removing access to CrowdTangle will significantly limit independent monitoring of the damage” caused by disinformation, Melanie Smith, research director, told AFP. of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue.

“This is a serious regression for transparency on social media. »

“Fundamental principle of transparency”

Meta is moving to replace CrowdTangle with a new content library, contested by many experts, including former CrowdTangle CEO Brandon Silverman.

He notes that the new program is still under development: “It’s a whole new technology that Meta still needs to build to protect the integrity of elections.”

Meta bought CrowdTangle in 2016. The group readily acknowledges that during Louisiana’s 2019 elections, the tool helped officials identify false information, such as inaccurate polling station times.

And during the 2020 presidential election, Facebook offered the tool to U.S. election officials in every state to help them “quickly identify misinformation, interference and voter suppression.”

CrowdTangle additionally offers the public dashboards to track what major candidates post on their official and campaign pages.

The Mozilla Foundation, a global non-profit organization, requested in an open letter to Meta that the service be retained until at least January 2025.

“The abandonment of CrowdTangle while the content library is devoid of a large part of the basic functionality of CrowdTangle undermines the fundamental principle of transparency”, and constitutes a “direct threat” to the integrity of the elections, indicates the letter signed by dozens of observers and researchers.

Unflattering information

Meta spokesperson Andy Stone said the letter’s claims are “simply false.”

He assures that the content library will contain “more comprehensive data than CrowdTangle” and will be made available to academics and electoral non-profit organizations.

Another area of ​​concern: Meta, which favors entertainment rather than news and politics on its platforms, will not make this new tool available to for-profit media.

In the past, journalists have used CrowdTangle to investigate public health crises, human rights violations and natural disasters.

The decision by the parent company of Facebook and Instagram comes after numerous journalists used CrowdTangle to report information that was unflattering for the company, including its difficulties in moderating content on its platforms and the abundance of games hacked files present on its video game application.

CrowdTangle made it possible to “hold Meta accountable for enforcing its own rules,” says Tim Harper, political analyst at the Center for Democracy & Technology.

Third-party organizations that participate in Meta’s fact-checking program, including AFP, will have access to the content library.

But other researchers and nonprofits will have to apply for access or seek costly alternatives.


Leave a Comment