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How to fan out for content across Facebook and Instagram using CrowdTangle
How to fan out for content across Facebook and Instagram using CrowdTangle

Fan-outs are tactics investigators use when they’re trying to identify similar content that has made its way across social media networks.

Written by Tess
Updated over a week ago

Fan-out tactics are important to investigators, and CrowdTangle can help you do these fan outs for links and video content.

Here's an example of what a fan out is:

Take a claim or story, e.g., "Donald Trump stays in White House bunker", and find other examples of the story by pulling out the most distinctive keywords and using the CrowdTangle search surface. In this case you could use the words "Donald Trump" and "bunker". Your search results should pull up all the different stories and related claims to this story.

You can identify this web of shares, and track how content is being dispersed using CrowdTangle.

Trying to fan out on multiple posts sharing content that has already been fact-checked? Follow these steps.

Go to CrowdTangle search. Set filters:

  • Account Type: Facebook Pages and Public Groups

  • Time Frame: Last 30 days (The auto-setting is 24 hours which is too short of a window for fan-outs)

1. Paste the full link into the CrowdTangle search field to see posts that include the link.

  • Sort the results by newest or oldest on Facebook

  • If over 500 links, download the links to get the full set

  • Be sure to look out for posts that are noting that the content in the link is incorrect.

2. Once you have the posts, open and review each one to determine if they have already received a fact-check treatment: links will either have a treatment, have no treatment, or no longer exist.

  • Fact-check treatments for links can be an additional link under a title that reads “related articles” pushing toward a fact-checked article.

  • Sometimes there are delays in CrowdTangle search results, content may be taken down on Facebook but only apparent after you click through, and out of CrowdTangle.

  • Additionally, if a particular link is starting to go viral, other websites may begin to copy and paste the same content. To find this repurposed content do the following: Search the keywords in the meta data of the original link (i.e. the preview text, or the title of the article of the original article). Also try to search for the first couple sentences of the article (either separately or together). If new links with the same article appear, repeat the link search steps above.

  • Sometimes the main claim from the fact-checked article may be pulled out into text posts. Use the steps under the fan out for text in that case. Similarly, sometimes a claim may be pulled into a tweet, and the tweet link is then shared out. Use the link fan out for those cases.

Fanning out images

CrowdTangle does not currently provide a reverse image search function for Facebook or Instagram. Assuming that the image is not a text image (text images can be treated as a text post because of the "Meme Search" functionality), you can try reverse Google image search to see other instances of the image. You may have mixed results, but often it will surface links that contain the image (try also searching for “Facebook” or “Instagram” to surface posts on the platforms).

Fanning out for video on Facebook

1. Instead of starting on CrowdTangle search, start in a FB dashboard.

2. Create a new search, using minimal but specific keyword(s) (e.g. “plandemic”)

3. Filter the search results to just video

4. Download the CSV of your video results for your keyword

5. Open your CSV (formatted to text, broken out into columns)

6. Look for the “Link description” field, then sort the field (and outside of it) from A > Z (should be an option on the home bar for Excel)

7. Similar or the same videos will be grouped with the same “Link Description”, even if the end links are different. You may also multiple descriptions -- just check the link attached to the description to see if it’s also the video you’re looking for.

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