Open Letter To Meta

Meta, Support CrowdTangle Through 2024 and Maintain CrowdTangle Approach

On 14 March, Meta announced it would abandon CrowdTangle, the tool used by tens of thousands of journalists, watchdogs, and election observers to monitor the integrity of elections around the world. Meta will shut down CrowdTangle on 14 August, without an effective replacement, ahead of elections in the United States, Brazil, and Australia and in the wake of elections in India, South Africa, and Mexico — endangering both pre- and post election monitoring.

Meta’s decision will effectively prohibit the outside world, including election integrity experts, from seeing what’s happening on Facebook and Instagram — during the biggest election year on record. 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 below signatories call on Meta to:

  1. Keep CrowdTangle functioning until January 2025.
  2. Rapidly onboard all current CrowdTangle organizations that are focused on election integrity to the Content Library, including civil society organizations, researchers and qualifying news outlets - directly or through an accelerated application process.
  3. Engage in regular consultations with the global Crowdtangle community to ensure that the Content Library meets their needs, including maintaining full Crowdtangle functionality, before the tool is deprecated.
  4. As soon as possible, both the Content Library and CrowdTangle should add data about any election-related labels that are attached to public content by Meta, especially fact-checking and voter-interference.

For years, CrowdTangle has represented an industry best practice for real-time platform transparency. It has become a lifeline for understanding how disinformation, hate speech, and voter suppression spread on Facebook, undermining civic discourse and democracy. It’s also used by researchers and human rights groups to study war crimes, human rights violations, public health crises and natural disasters. Its dashboards helped people analyze and monitor in real-time the spread and engagement of public content on Facebook and Instagram (and at one point, Reddit and Twitter, too). This in turn helped Meta identify harmful trends and abuse on its platforms.

Unfortunately, Meta has been reducing investment in CrowdTangle and has stopped onboarding new users. For many, the announcement on 14 March was not a surprise.

Meta claims that its the decision to discontinue CrowdTangle is about meeting its regulatory requirements under the EU’s Digital Services Act:

“Our data sharing products are evolving alongside technology and regulatory changes. Phasing out CrowdTangle will allow us to focus resources on our new research tools, Meta Content Library and Content Library API, which provide useful, high quality data to researchers.

We’re encouraged Meta is investing in the new Content Library — but abandoning CrowdTangle while the Content Library lacks so much of CrowdTangle’s core functionality undermines the fundamental principle of transparency at the heart of the Digital Services Act.

The new Content Library may eventually be an effective replacement or even an improvement on CrowdTangle, but it is not currently fit for purpose as a tool to monitor elections. It lacks vital CrowdTangle features like automated insights to the interface, tools for benchmarking individual pieces of content, robust search flexibility, and more ways to automatically export data. Meta’s new data access program, run through the University of Michigan Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), is fundamentally different from CrowdTangle: it is mainly focused on long-term, academic research, available through a clean room environment. In contrast, CrowdTangle’s immense value has been in providing real-time, public data to tens of thousands of public interest researchers, election administration officials and journalists across the world. For instance, in 2020, Meta provided CrowdTangle to election administration officials in all 50 US states to help them monitor for potential election interference or misinformation. They also made public dashboards available so it was easy to see what every major candidate was posting on their platforms. Those sort of resources were invaluable to helping protect the election and are now under threat of disappearing forever.

Furthermore, at time of writing, relatively few researchers have access to the new Content Library: thousands of civil society organizations and journalists currently monitoring Facebook and Instagram through CrowdTangle simply do not have access to the new system, making it even more difficult for them to continue their vital work during elections. Moreover, suggesting that civil society groups and election integrity organizations should pay for expensive alternatives designed for marking & commercial purposes is not a realistic proposal. Abandoning CrowdTangle is essentially a resource allocation issue. Continuing to support CrowdTangle alongside the Content Library would not put Meta at risk of regulatory noncompliance.

In 2024, about 50 countries — approximately half the world’s population — will go to the polls. What we need right now are effective tools to track candidates and political narratives, and to protect people before, during, and immediately following elections, in the moments when false and confusing narratives spread like wildfire, and when disinformation and hate speech can drive physical harm offline.

Meaningful real-time transparency into the spread of online content is vital to protect the integrity of elections. But this transparency is not just a question of what data points are eventually shared - it is about who is given access to transparency tools and how they are empowered to use them.

Signed:

#Jesuislà

7amleh - The Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media

Access Now

Accountable Tech

Africa Digital Democracy Observatory (ADDO)

Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC)

AfroLeadership

AkhbarMeter Media Observatory

Aláfia Lab

AI Forensics

AlgorithmWatch

Alliance4Europe

Almost

Analysis & Numbers

Associação Casa Hacker

Avaaz

Build Up

Brazilian National Institute of Public Communication of Science and Technology

Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD)

Center for Democracy and Technology

Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD)

Centre for Peace Studies

Check My Ads

CheckFirst oy

Civil Liberties Union For Europe (Liberties)

Climate Action Against Disinformation

Coalition for Independent Tech Research

Consortium of Ethiopian Human Rights Organizations (CEHRO Ethiopia)

Corporate Europe Observatory

CORRECTIV

Council for Responsible Social Media

Dare to be Grey

Das NETTZ

Debunk.org

Defend Democracy

Demagog Association

Democracy Reporting International

Digital Action

Digital Methods Initiative, Amsterdam

Digital Rights Foundation (DRF)

Eastern Africa Editors Society

Ekō

Eticas Foundation

EU DisinfoLab

Expert Forum Think Tank, Romania

Fair Vote UK

Faktabaari

Filippo Menczer, Director of Observatory on Social Media, Indiana University

Forum on Information and Democracy

Foundation The London Story

Friends of the Earth

Fundamedios

Fundación InternetBolivia.org

Fundación Maldita.es

GLAAD

Glitch

Global Action Plan

Global Coalition for Tech Justice

Global Voices

GlobalFocus Center

Global Witness

GLOBSEC

GoVote Nigeria

Greek Helsinki Monitor

GuinéeCheck

Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)

Hashtag Generation

Hope and Courage Collective Ireland

Human Rights Monitoring Institute

HuMENA for Human Rights and Civic Engagement

Hungarian Civil Liberties Union

ICCL Enforce

INSM, digital rights defender in Iraq

Institute for Strategic Dialogue

Internet Sans Frontières

Internews Ukraine

Jordan Open Source Association

Källkritikbyrån

Lead Stories

The Legal Resources Centre

LoveAid Foundation

Majal.org

médialab Sciences Po, Paris

Meedan

MEMO 98

Mnemonic

Mozilla

Myanmar Internet Project

Myanmar Tech Accountability Network

Myth Detector, Media Development Foundation

Namibia Media Trust

National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI)

National Network to Combat Disinformation - Brazil

NetLab UFRJ

NepalFactCheck.org

Novi Sindikat, Croatia

Panoptykon Foundation

Panos Institute Southern Africa

Paradigm Initiative

People Vs Big Tech

People's Alliance for Credible Elections

Politiscope EU

Pollicy

Rappler

Real Facebook Oversight Board

Research ICT Africa

Reset Tech

Rinascimento Green

Science Feedback

Search for Common Ground

Sierra Leone Association of Journalists

SocialTIC

Social Impact and Development Communication Centre

SOLIDAR & SOLIDAR Foundation

Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet)

Tech Global Institute

Tech4Peace

Textgain

The Peace Institute, Ljubljana

The Peacemaker Corps Foundation Kenya, The Center for Media, Democracy, Peace and Security-Rongo University

Tattle Civic Technologies

The Tech Oversight Project

TjekDet

University of Cape Coast, Ghana

USC Neely Center

VOST Europe

Waag Futurelab

WHAT TO FIX

Who Targets Me

Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET)

Women NGOs Secretariat of Liberia

Xnet, Institute for Democratic Digitalisation

Youth Open Data

Abhishek Kumar, Senior fact-checker and Researcher at Alt News

Asha Phillips, former International News Partnerships lead at CrowdTangle

Alette Schoon, School of Journalism and Media Studies, Rhodes University, South Africa

Archit Mehta, MA CCT/ Researcher at The Bridge Initiative at Georgetown University

Bao Truong, Observatory on Social Media at Indiana University

Basile Simon, Starling Lab for Data Integrity, Stanford EE

Baobao Zhang, Syracuse University

Brandon Silverman, Former CEO & Co-Founder of CrowdTangle

Claes de Vreese, University of Amsterdam

Courtney C. Radsch, Director of the Center for Journalism and Liberty

Danishjeet Singh, researcher

David Evan Harris, Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley

Douglas A. Parry, Stellenbosch University

Emma Briant, Monash University

Emre Kizilkaya, Editor, Journo.com.tr

Flavia Durach, National University of Political Studies and Public Administration, Bucharest

Francesco Bailo, Lecturer, University of Sydney

Galyna Petrenko, director at Detector Media NGO

Guy Berger, Director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development, UNESCO

Jean le Roux, Digital Forensic Research Lab

Jennifer Stromer-Galley, Syracuse University

Johannes Breuer, GESIS, Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences

Justin Hendrix, CEO and Editor, Tech Policy Press

Kazutoshi Sasahara, Tokyo Institute of Technology, School of Environment and Society

Linda Ngari, Fact-Checking and Data Journalist

Lisa Schirch, Keough School of Global Affairs, University of Notre Dame

Louis Barclay, Founder of Unfollow Everything

Luise Koch, TUM School of Social Sciences and Technology

Luiz Eugenio Scarpino Jr, Professor

Manuel Alejandro Baron Romero

Maria Ressa, Nobel laureate

Matthew R. DeVerna, PhD Candidate, Indiana University

Michael Workman, ABC News

Nina Santos, National Institute of Science & Technology for Digital Democracy, Brazil

Orestis Papakyriakopoulos, Technical University of Munich

Prateek Waghre, Internet Freedom Foundation, India

Priyanjana Bengani, Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Columbia University

Piyush Ghasiya, Postdoctoral Fellow, Tokyo Institute of Technology

Rebekah Tromble, George Washington University

Richard Rogers, Media Studies, University of Amsterdam

Robin Monheit, Former North America News Partnerships Lead, CrowdTangle

Simon Kruschinski, Department of Communication, Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz

Shepi Mati, Lecturer, Rhodes University

If you are an organization, independent researcher, or public interest journalist working on platform integrity, and would like your endorsement to be listed publicly, please email Mozilla's EU Advocacy Lead, [email protected].

Meta, Support CrowdTangle Through 2024 and Maintain CrowdTangle Approach

On 14 March, Meta announced it would abandon CrowdTangle, the tool used by tens of thousands of journalists, watchdogs, and election observers to monitor the integrity of elections around the world. Meta will shut down CrowdTangle on 14 August, without an effective replacement, ahead of elections in the United States, Brazil, and Australia and in the wake of elections in India, South Africa, and Mexico — endangering both pre- and post election monitoring.

Meta’s decision will effectively prohibit the outside world, including election integrity experts, from seeing what’s happening on Facebook and Instagram — during the biggest election year on record. 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 below signatories call on Meta to:

  1. Keep CrowdTangle functioning until January 2025.
  2. Rapidly onboard all current CrowdTangle organizations that are focused on election integrity to the Content Library, including civil society organizations, researchers and qualifying news outlets - directly or through an accelerated application process.
  3. Engage in regular consultations with the global Crowdtangle community to ensure that the Content Library meets their needs, including maintaining full Crowdtangle functionality, before the tool is deprecated.
  4. As soon as possible, both the Content Library and CrowdTangle should add data about any election-related labels that are attached to public content by Meta, especially fact-checking and voter-interference.

For years, CrowdTangle has represented an industry best practice for real-time platform transparency. It has become a lifeline for understanding how disinformation, hate speech, and voter suppression spread on Facebook, undermining civic discourse and democracy. It’s also used by researchers and human rights groups to study war crimes, human rights violations, public health crises and natural disasters. Its dashboards helped people analyze and monitor in real-time the spread and engagement of public content on Facebook and Instagram (and at one point, Reddit and Twitter, too). This in turn helped Meta identify harmful trends and abuse on its platforms.

Unfortunately, Meta has been reducing investment in CrowdTangle and has stopped onboarding new users. For many, the announcement on 14 March was not a surprise.

Meta claims that its the decision to discontinue CrowdTangle is about meeting its regulatory requirements under the EU’s Digital Services Act:

“Our data sharing products are evolving alongside technology and regulatory changes. Phasing out CrowdTangle will allow us to focus resources on our new research tools, Meta Content Library and Content Library API, which provide useful, high quality data to researchers.

We’re encouraged Meta is investing in the new Content Library — but abandoning CrowdTangle while the Content Library lacks so much of CrowdTangle’s core functionality undermines the fundamental principle of transparency at the heart of the Digital Services Act.

The new Content Library may eventually be an effective replacement or even an improvement on CrowdTangle, but it is not currently fit for purpose as a tool to monitor elections. It lacks vital CrowdTangle features like automated insights to the interface, tools for benchmarking individual pieces of content, robust search flexibility, and more ways to automatically export data. Meta’s new data access program, run through the University of Michigan Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), is fundamentally different from CrowdTangle: it is mainly focused on long-term, academic research, available through a clean room environment. In contrast, CrowdTangle’s immense value has been in providing real-time, public data to tens of thousands of public interest researchers, election administration officials and journalists across the world. For instance, in 2020, Meta provided CrowdTangle to election administration officials in all 50 US states to help them monitor for potential election interference or misinformation. They also made public dashboards available so it was easy to see what every major candidate was posting on their platforms. Those sort of resources were invaluable to helping protect the election and are now under threat of disappearing forever.

Furthermore, at time of writing, relatively few researchers have access to the new Content Library: thousands of civil society organizations and journalists currently monitoring Facebook and Instagram through CrowdTangle simply do not have access to the new system, making it even more difficult for them to continue their vital work during elections. Moreover, suggesting that civil society groups and election integrity organizations should pay for expensive alternatives designed for marking & commercial purposes is not a realistic proposal. Abandoning CrowdTangle is essentially a resource allocation issue. Continuing to support CrowdTangle alongside the Content Library would not put Meta at risk of regulatory noncompliance.

In 2024, about 50 countries — approximately half the world’s population — will go to the polls. What we need right now are effective tools to track candidates and political narratives, and to protect people before, during, and immediately following elections, in the moments when false and confusing narratives spread like wildfire, and when disinformation and hate speech can drive physical harm offline.

Meaningful real-time transparency into the spread of online content is vital to protect the integrity of elections. But this transparency is not just a question of what data points are eventually shared - it is about who is given access to transparency tools and how they are empowered to use them.

Signed:

#Jesuislà

7amleh - The Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media

Access Now

Accountable Tech

Africa Digital Democracy Observatory (ADDO)

Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC)

AfroLeadership

AkhbarMeter Media Observatory

Aláfia Lab

AI Forensics

AlgorithmWatch

Alliance4Europe

Almost

Analysis & Numbers

Associação Casa Hacker

Avaaz

Build Up

Brazilian National Institute of Public Communication of Science and Technology

Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD)

Center for Democracy and Technology

Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD)

Centre for Peace Studies

Check My Ads

CheckFirst oy

Civil Liberties Union For Europe (Liberties)

Climate Action Against Disinformation

Coalition for Independent Tech Research

Consortium of Ethiopian Human Rights Organizations (CEHRO Ethiopia)

Corporate Europe Observatory

CORRECTIV

Council for Responsible Social Media

Dare to be Grey

Das NETTZ

Debunk.org

Defend Democracy

Demagog Association

Democracy Reporting International

Digital Action

Digital Methods Initiative, Amsterdam

Digital Rights Foundation (DRF)

Eastern Africa Editors Society

Ekō

Eticas Foundation

EU DisinfoLab

Expert Forum Think Tank, Romania

Fair Vote UK

Faktabaari

Filippo Menczer, Director of Observatory on Social Media, Indiana University

Forum on Information and Democracy

Foundation The London Story

Friends of the Earth

Fundamedios

Fundación InternetBolivia.org

Fundación Maldita.es

GLAAD

Glitch

Global Action Plan

Global Coalition for Tech Justice

Global Voices

GlobalFocus Center

Global Witness

GLOBSEC

GoVote Nigeria

Greek Helsinki Monitor

GuinéeCheck

Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)

Hashtag Generation

Hope and Courage Collective Ireland

Human Rights Monitoring Institute

HuMENA for Human Rights and Civic Engagement

Hungarian Civil Liberties Union

ICCL Enforce

INSM, digital rights defender in Iraq

Institute for Strategic Dialogue

Internet Sans Frontières

Internews Ukraine

Jordan Open Source Association

Källkritikbyrån

Lead Stories

The Legal Resources Centre

LoveAid Foundation

Majal.org

médialab Sciences Po, Paris

Meedan

MEMO 98

Mnemonic

Mozilla

Myanmar Internet Project

Myanmar Tech Accountability Network

Myth Detector, Media Development Foundation

Namibia Media Trust

National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI)

National Network to Combat Disinformation - Brazil

NetLab UFRJ

NepalFactCheck.org

Novi Sindikat, Croatia

Panoptykon Foundation

Panos Institute Southern Africa

Paradigm Initiative

People Vs Big Tech

People's Alliance for Credible Elections

Politiscope EU

Pollicy

Rappler

Real Facebook Oversight Board

Research ICT Africa

Reset Tech

Rinascimento Green

Science Feedback

Search for Common Ground

Sierra Leone Association of Journalists

SocialTIC

Social Impact and Development Communication Centre

SOLIDAR & SOLIDAR Foundation

Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet)

Tech Global Institute

Tech4Peace

Textgain

The Peace Institute, Ljubljana

The Peacemaker Corps Foundation Kenya, The Center for Media, Democracy, Peace and Security-Rongo University

Tattle Civic Technologies

The Tech Oversight Project

TjekDet

University of Cape Coast, Ghana

USC Neely Center

VOST Europe

Waag Futurelab

WHAT TO FIX

Who Targets Me

Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET)

Women NGOs Secretariat of Liberia

Xnet, Institute for Democratic Digitalisation

Youth Open Data

Abhishek Kumar, Senior fact-checker and Researcher at Alt News

Asha Phillips, former International News Partnerships lead at CrowdTangle

Alette Schoon, School of Journalism and Media Studies, Rhodes University, South Africa

Archit Mehta, MA CCT/ Researcher at The Bridge Initiative at Georgetown University

Bao Truong, Observatory on Social Media at Indiana University

Basile Simon, Starling Lab for Data Integrity, Stanford EE

Baobao Zhang, Syracuse University

Brandon Silverman, Former CEO & Co-Founder of CrowdTangle

Claes de Vreese, University of Amsterdam

Courtney C. Radsch, Director of the Center for Journalism and Liberty

Danishjeet Singh, researcher

David Evan Harris, Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley

Douglas A. Parry, Stellenbosch University

Emma Briant, Monash University

Emre Kizilkaya, Editor, Journo.com.tr

Flavia Durach, National University of Political Studies and Public Administration, Bucharest

Francesco Bailo, Lecturer, University of Sydney

Galyna Petrenko, director at Detector Media NGO

Guy Berger, Director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development, UNESCO

Jean le Roux, Digital Forensic Research Lab

Jennifer Stromer-Galley, Syracuse University

Johannes Breuer, GESIS, Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences

Justin Hendrix, CEO and Editor, Tech Policy Press

Kazutoshi Sasahara, Tokyo Institute of Technology, School of Environment and Society

Linda Ngari, Fact-Checking and Data Journalist

Lisa Schirch, Keough School of Global Affairs, University of Notre Dame

Louis Barclay, Founder of Unfollow Everything

Luise Koch, TUM School of Social Sciences and Technology

Luiz Eugenio Scarpino Jr, Professor

Manuel Alejandro Baron Romero

Maria Ressa, Nobel laureate

Matthew R. DeVerna, PhD Candidate, Indiana University

Michael Workman, ABC News

Nina Santos, National Institute of Science & Technology for Digital Democracy, Brazil

Orestis Papakyriakopoulos, Technical University of Munich

Prateek Waghre, Internet Freedom Foundation, India

Priyanjana Bengani, Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Columbia University

Piyush Ghasiya, Postdoctoral Fellow, Tokyo Institute of Technology

Rebekah Tromble, George Washington University

Richard Rogers, Media Studies, University of Amsterdam

Robin Monheit, Former North America News Partnerships Lead, CrowdTangle

Simon Kruschinski, Department of Communication, Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz

Shepi Mati, Lecturer, Rhodes University

If you are an organization, independent researcher, or public interest journalist working on platform integrity, and would like your endorsement to be listed publicly, please email Mozilla's EU Advocacy Lead, [email protected].