Meta sets a date for killing off CrowdTangle

CrowdTangle saw its team disbanded in 2021, new user registrations cut off in 2022 and now the site will officially shut down on August 14, the Wall Street Journal reports. Journalists and academics alike have used CrowdTangle to study the flow of content on Facebook and Instagram, including conspiracy theories and fake news. Meta, which bought the company in 2016, choosing to shutter the company is an entirely unsurprising move given it has been the source for many of the social media conglomerate’s failings.

A tool called Meta Content Library will replace CrowdTangle, but only academics and nonprofit researchers can use it. That’s right — for-profit news organizations can’t apply for access to what sounds like a watered-down version of CrowdTangle. Meta claims that its Content Library — which is the company’s answer for the European Union’s Digital Markets Act — has new features like data on public comments and searching content based on views. However, early testers found it lacked geography-based activity data or the ability to download data from public posts.

Meta and CEO Mark Zuckerberg certainly benefit from limiting how much people — especially reporters — can view about their doings. We recently published a deep dive into Zuckerberg’s dangerous decisions, including going against warnings from experts and personally intervening to block a ban on Instagram’s plastic surgery filters. Other horrors under his watch include Instagram’s recommendation algorithm promoting content featuring child sexual exploitation and regularly dismissing requests from top lieutenants to further prioritize safety. Then, in court, his lawyers have claimed he should hold no responsibility for the lawsuits involving harm caused by Meta’s platforms.

On Thursday, Crowdtangle’s former co-founder and CEO Brandon Silverman criticized the Meta’s decision to shut down the service. In a blog post, Silverman said that turning off Crowdtangle 12 weeks before the US Presidential election was “incredibly irresponsible.” He added, however, that he was optimistic that the legacy of Crowdtangle would help to “inspire a permanent set of regulations that make real-time access to public data a legal requirement and an ongoing part of how we manage the internet responsibly & collaboratively.”

Update, March 14 2024, 8:24 PM ET: This story has been updated to include Silverman’s reaction to Meta’s decision to kill Crowdtangle.

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