Amid ongoing calls for more transparency from tech platforms, Meta announced Wednesday that it will begin opening up an archive of content it has removed to researchers around the world. The archive, which was built with CrowdTangle, will include posts removed under the company's policy against coordinated inauthentic behavior, a policy that was created largely in response to the propaganda campaign engineered by Russia's Internet Research Agency leading up to the 2016 election.
"We already have a number of researchers onboarded to this beta program, and have been sharing our [coordinated inauthentic behavior] takedown data for some time. In the months ahead, we hope to onboard many more," Facebook's Head of Security Policy Nathaniel Gleicher tweeted Wednesday.
Until now, Facebook has mostly reported on these sorts of phony influence campaigns on its own, doling out examples of content that governments and other groups have used to try to sway or mislead people on Facebook and Instagram. Some research groups have at times gotten special access to posts the company removes, which they've reported on independently. But this archive stands to substantially broaden the pool of research on these ongoing influence operations.
Facebook's relationship with researchers has been strained recently. Earlier this year, the company cut a team of researchers at New York University off from the platform and a high-profile effort to share data with outside researchers was thwarted by the discovery that the data the company shared was flawed.
The effort to open up this new database of takedowns was a years-long process, according to Brandon Silverman, the recently departed head of CrowdTangle. "This initiative was a 3+ year cross-company effort to be able to archive those removed networks in CrowdTangle and use the [CrowdTangle] platform to share the content of those networks with researchers. It's not perfect but it's a big step forward," Silverman tweeted.
The company began piloting the program with a small group of researchers in 2020 and has since uploaded content from 100 of these influence campaigns.
Along with the announcement of the archive, Facebook announced a slew of takedowns from operations originating in China, Palestine, Poland and Belarus, underscoring the need for further analysis of these efforts as they continue to grow and evolve.