Senator Portman said in an emailed statement that “every new disclosure of problematic activity by social media companies reignites congressional calls for action.” Before responding to those calls, he said, âCongress should take a step back to make sure we don’t legislate in the dark.
For Mr. Silverman, the law is a return to politics. He entered the tech industry on an unusual path, which began in 2005 at the Center for Progressive Leadership, a non-profit organization aimed at training a new generation of political leaders. He was interested in building online communities as a way to keep program alumni connected. In 2011, he helped found a company then called OpenPage Labs, aimed at creating social networks for progressive nonprofits using Facebook’s âopen graph,â a short-lived program that enabled software developers to ” integrate their applications with Facebook.
The most successful element of this company was its ability to measure what was happening on Facebook pages and groups, and the company began to license its analytics tools to publishers, among others. A major client was the rapidly growing progressive media start-up Upworthy in 2013, followed by a wave of other media companies. I first met Mr. Silverman around this time, and it was clear his company’s insight into which stories spread the fastest on Facebook offered a distinct advantage to editors and editors looking for traffic. .
In 2017, Facebook made the service free and opened it up to thousands of new users. Eventually, human rights organizations and fact-checkers seeking to understand their own societies and improve their media also began to use it, as did journalists who wanted to understand Facebook itself.
âThat’s when we started to realize how impatient and dependent the outside world was to see what was going on on the platform,â Mr. Silverman said.
But as news about Facebook’s impact on society turned negative, CrowdTangle was increasingly seen internally as a threat. In July 2020, my colleague Kevin Roose started a Twitter account listing Facebook’s most engaged links every day, largely inflammatory right-wing comments. The account was an irritant to Facebook executives, “embarrassed by the disparity between what they thought Facebook was – a clean, well-lit public square of civility and tolerance – and the image they saw reflected. in Twitter lists, “as Mr Roose put it after getting internal emails discussing CrowdTangle’s future last July.
Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president for global affairs, complained in the emails that “our own tools are helping journalists solidify the bad story.”