Arbiters of Truth


The Nuts and Bolts of Social Media Transparency

Brandon Silverman is a former Facebook executive and founder of the data analytics tool CrowdTangle. Brandon joined Facebook in 2016 after the company acquired CrowdTangle, a startup designed to provide insight into what content is performing well on Facebook and Instagram, and he left in October 2021, in the midst of a debate over how much information the company should make public about its platform. As the New York Times described it, CrowdTangle “had increasingly become an irritant” to Facebook’s leadership “as it revealed the extent to which Facebook users engaged with hyperpartisan right-wing politics and misleading health information.”

This week on Arbiters of Truth, our series on the online information ecosystem, Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke with Brandon about what we mean when we talk about transparency from social media platforms and why that transparency matters. They also discussed his work with the Congress and other regulators to advise on what legislation ensuring more openness from platforms would look like—and why it’s so hard to draft regulation that works.

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Rebroadcast: The Most Intense Online Disinformation Event in American History

If you’ve been watching the hearings convened by the House select committee on Jan. 6, you’ve seen a great deal about how the Trump campaign generated and spread falsehoods about supposed election fraud in 2020. As the committee has argued, those falsehoods were crucial in generating the political energy that culminated in the explosion of the January 6 insurrection.What shape did those lies take, and how did social media platforms attempt to deal with them at the time? Today, we’re bringing you an episode of our Arbiters of Truth series on the online information ecosystem. In fact, we’re rebroadcasting an episode we recorded in November 2020 about disinformation and the 2020 election. In late November 2020, after Joe Biden cemented his victory as the next president but while the Trump campaign was still pushing its claims of election fraud online and in court, Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke with Alex Stamos, the director of the Stanford Internet Observatory. Their conversation then was a great overview of the state of election security and the difficulty of countering false claims around the integrity of the vote. It’s worth a listen today as the Jan. 6 committee reminds us what the political and media environment was like in the aftermath of the election and how the Trump campaign committed to election lies that still echo all too loudly. And though it’s a year and a half later, the problems we’re discussing here certainly haven’t gone away.