FreeSpeech and Censorship: Thread

grarpamp grarpamp at
Tue Aug 31 19:32:50 PDT 2021

On 8/31/21, professor rat <pro2rat at> wrote:
> Thousands of posts around January 6 riots go missing from Facebook
> transparency tool
> None dare call it reason and for that there is a treason.

Censorship is a treason against the nature of the free mind.

Scores of Facebook posts from the days before and after the January 6
Capitol Hill riots in Washington are missing.

By Mark Scott, Politico, August 31, 2021

The posts disappeared from Crowdtangle, a tool owned by Facebook that
allows researchers to track what people are saying on the platform,
according to academics from New York University and Université
Grenoble Alpes.

The lost posts — everything from innocuous personal updates to
potential incitement to violence to mainstream news articles — have
been unavailable within Facebook's transparency system since at least
May, 2021. The company told POLITICO that they were accidentally
removed from Crowdtangle because of a limit on how Facebook allows
data to be accessed via its technical transparency tools. It said that
the error had now been fixed.

Facebook did not address the sizeable gap in its Crowdtangle data
publicly until contacted by POLITICO, despite ongoing pressure from
policymakers about the company's role in helping spread messages,
posts and videos about the violent insurrection, which killed five
people. On Friday, U.S. lawmakers ordered the company to hand over
reams of internal documents and data linked to the riots, including
details on how misinformation, which targeted the U.S. presidential
election, had spread.

It is unclear how many posts are still missing from Crowdtangle, when
they will be restored, and if the problem solely affects U.S. content
or material from all of Facebook's 2.4 billion users worldwide. The
academics who discovered the problem estimate that tens of thousands
of Facebook posts are currently missing.

"If Facebook knew about this, and just didn't tell anyone, I think
researchers should be pretty concerned about that fact," Laura
Edelson, an academic at NYU and part of the team that found the
missing data, told POLITICO. Edelson is in an ongoing battle with
Facebook over a separate research project about what political ads are
displayed within the feeds — a project the company says breaks its
privacy policy.
Transparency battle

The failure to disclose the lost posts, which was due to a technical
error, comes at a difficult time for Facebook and its efforts to
promote transparency around what people see within its network.

After an internal battle, the company is currently dismantling the
Crowdtangle team after researchers and journalists used the tool
repeatedly to trace how far-right, extremist and false content
circulated widely across both Facebook and Instagram. The tech giant
also published its own report this month on what content was most
widely viewed during the second quarter of this year, primarily
highlighting viral spam and links to mainstreams sites like YouTube.

But after the New York Times was handed details about the most widely
viewed posts from the first three months of the year, Facebook was
forced to disclose similar statistics for that period. They showed
that misinformation around COVID-19 was still among the most popular
content on the site despite the company's efforts to clamp down on it.

The latest episode underscores longstanding concerns about
transparency on Facebook.

"Researchers do assume that they are getting all the public content
from Facebook pages that are indexed by Crowdtangle," said Edelson.
"Those assumptions have been violated in this case."

In response to POLITICO, Facebook said it had now fixed the error
related to the missing Crowdtangle data, and that all the original
posts were still available directly via Facebook. A spokesperson also
said that roughly 80 percent of the missing posts flagged by both NYU
and Université Grenoble Alpes researchers should not have been
available on Crowdtangle, either because they had subsequently deleted
or made private by Facebook users. She declined to comment on how many
posts, in total, had gone missing from the Crowdtangle platform.

"We appreciate the researchers bringing these posts to our attention,"
said the Facebook spokesperson.
'Something was clearly wrong'

The researchers first discovered the missing posts after comparing two
versions of a Crowdtangle database of Facebook content produced by
U.S. media outlets between September 2020 and January 2021.

After the Capitol Hill riots, the academics said they had planned to
analyze what type of content Facebook had removed related to the
insurrection to meet its content moderation policies. But they soon
discovered that up to 30 percent of the posts collected in the weeks
around the January 6 riots — roughly from December 28, 2020 to January
11, 2021 — from the second Crowdtangle database were missing compared
to the original.

"We came up tens of thousands of posts short. We knew something was
clearly wrong," said Edelson. "We were able to find some of the posts
that we couldn't find on Crowdtangle, but we were able to find that
they were still available on Facebook. That's when we knew, OK, this
isn't us, there is some kind of real bug here."

It is unclear how extensive the problem with the Crowdtangle data is.

Facebook did not comment on how many posts were still missing from the
system, and POLITICO's review of the academics' work found that less
than half of the roughly 50,000 missing posts were currently available
via the transparency tool. The remaining Facebook content was no
longer accessible, either because it had been deleted or made private
on the global platform, and therefore was not automatically collected
on Crowdtangle.

The academics flagged the issue to Facebook on August 3 — hours before
the company suspended Edelson and two other researchers' accounts,
including their access to Crowdtangle, for their separate work around
political ads.

The researchers said they had not heard back from the company about
the missing data, even though academics, journalists and policymakers
continue to use the transparency tool in efforts to uncover what
happened during the Capitol Hill riots.

"Obviously, my situation with Facebook is not ideal. But I think even
leaving aside questions of who has permission to access Crowdtangle
data and other forms of Facebook transparency data, I think, at this
point, Facebook has lost a tremendous amount of credibility," said
Edelson. "And I don't really know how they are going to get it back."

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