His departure comes as Facebook is under pressure to publicly share more data about the content that spreads on its service. CrowdTangle, a free tool that lets anyone track popular posts across Facebook and Instagram, is at the center of that debate. In recent years, it has been used to show that far-right personalities are regularly the most engaged-with accounts on Facebook. That irritated some Facebook executives who felt that the data being shared by CrowdTangle was incomplete, and earlier this year, the CrowdTangle team was disbanded as a standalone team.
Facebook spokesperson Joe Osborne confirmed Silverman’s departure and said it would have “no change on day-to-day functioning of the CrowdTangle product experience.” He added that Silverman left the management of CrowdTangle after it was moved into Facebook’s broader Integrity organization a couple of months ago, which also houses the company’s ads library.
In July, The New York Times detailed internal debates between CrowdTangle staffers and Facebook executives who reportedly wanted to selectively share data about top posts. The idea was to refute the notion that Facebook was dominated by sensationalist, right-leaning content. The Times said that Silverman was on the side pushing for disclosing more data to the public, even if it could make the company look bad.
Facebook has since put out a couple of reports showing the most viewed content on the platform, which it says provides a more holistic view of what people see, rather than the data CrowdTangle provides on posts with the most likes and comments.
Facebook bought CrowdTangle in 2016 as it was courting media companies to post more on its News Feed, and the tool is still used to track viral posts on the social network. “You don’t do this work because you’re looking for some specific outcome or credibility or legitimacy or trust, but because so many public interest orgs simply need this data to do their work,” Silverman said in his farewell post to employees.
“I’m not sure what the future holds for CrowdTangle or data transparency here at Facebook, but I’m optimistic,” he wrote.