Meta discontinues monitoring tool CrowdTangle in election year

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Meta faces backlash over the decision to axe CrowdTangle, a key tool in misinformation monitoring.

NEW YORK, April 2: Meta, the parent company of Facebook, has stirred controversy with its announcement of the discontinuation of CrowdTangle, a digital tool renowned for its pivotal role in monitoring viral falsehoods, especially during significant events such as elections. According to a report by AFP, the decision has sparked concerns among researchers and journalists who heavily rely on CrowdTangle’s real-time transparency to track misinformation across Meta-owned platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

The timing of Meta’s move is particularly notable, occurring just months before the US election, leaving researchers apprehensive about the potential impact on their ability to detect and combat political misinformation. The replacement tool, Content Library, currently under development, lacks the same functionality as CrowdTangle, prompting doubts about its effectiveness in addressing the expected surge of false narratives during election periods.

Experts interpret Meta’s decision as part of a broader trend within the tech industry to scale back transparency and security measures, posing significant challenges for independent oversight of social media platforms. Melanie Smith, director of research at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, expressed concerns to AFP, highlighting the setback for social media platform transparency, especially during a year marked by numerous elections worldwide.

Brandon Silverman, former CEO of CrowdTangle, voiced skepticism about the adequacy of the Content Library as a replacement, particularly given the anticipated proliferation of AI-driven falsehoods during elections. He emphasized the need for Meta to prioritize openness and transparency in developing tools to safeguard the integrity of electoral processes.

CrowdTangle has played a vital role in past election cycles, alerting researchers to harmful activities such as foreign interference, online harassment, and incitement to violence. Meta itself acknowledges the tool’s contribution to identifying misinformation during elections, emphasizing its significance in combating false narratives and promoting electoral integrity.

Criticism of Meta’s decision to discontinue CrowdTangle has emerged from various quarters, with the Mozilla Foundation and other tech watchdogs advocating for its retention until at least January 2025. They argue that abandoning CrowdTangle while the Content Library remains incomplete undermines transparency and poses a direct threat to the integrity of elections.

In response to concerns, Meta spokesperson Andy Stone assured AFP that the Content Library would offer more comprehensive data than CrowdTangle and would be accessible to academics and non-profit election integrity experts, though not-for-profit media.

Journalists have expressed disappointment over Meta’s decision to restrict access to the new tool, arguing that it could undermine accountability efforts by limiting journalists’ ability to report on Meta’s moderation policies and content-related issues.

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