Facebook buys CrowdTangle to help publishers track content

The tool tracks how stuff spreads around the internet to gauge what's popular.

Photo by Pedro Fiúza/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The name CrowdTangle may not be familiar to you, but Facebook just snatched up the company to help its publishers track how content moves around the internet. CrowdTangle's platform launched four years ago, giving companies a real-time look at content performance to gauge if posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social channels are effective.

CrowdTangle set out to help activists organize social activity, but that venture wasn't profitable. The company then took the tool that displayed engagement and transformed it into a standalone product. That activity dashboard is used by the likes of BuzzFeed, CNN, ESPN and other big name media companies and brands. As The Verge notes, you can partially blame the tool for a lot of the repetitive content on the internet these days. When a publisher sees a quick post with the latest trailer from The Walking Dead is doing well, that video clip starts to show up all over the place.

Facebook is currently dealing with a major issue of fake news stories being wildly popular on the social network. Thanks to so-called "filter bubbles," users can tweak settings to only see stories they agree with, creating echo chambers for over half of adults who get their news from the site. Even after it ditched human editors, the algorithms that replaced them are still having issues determining what's real and what's not. It's easy for these types of stories to get pushed around the internet once they start trending and get picked up by Facebook users and publishers alike.

Facebook didn't disclose the purchase price, but it did say that CrowdTangle will remain open so that publishers can use it to keep track of performance. "We think Facebook is the single most powerful platform in the world in connecting people to each other and to stories they care about," CrowdTangle said on its website. "And at a time when there is a revolution taking place in how people connect with the world, our team is passionate about building tools that help publishers get the data and insights they need to succeed."