State Department Reportedly Used Facebook-Owned Tool To Track President Trump’s Allies, Judicial Watch Claims

An 'agency source' claims that the State Department used a Facebook-owned tool to track conservatives, including Donald Trump's son.

U.S. President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Ivanka Trump listen during a conference call with the International Space Station on October 18, 2019 in Washington, DC.
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An 'agency source' claims that the State Department used a Facebook-owned tool to track conservatives, including Donald Trump's son.

Conservative advocacy group Judicial Watch this week published a report that claims the U.S. State Department used a Facebook-owned tool in order to monitor members of the Republican Party.

Judicial Watch claims that an “agency source” alerted to them to the department’s use of Crowdtangle, which the source reportedly claimed was used by the State Department in order to track several notable individuals, including President Donald Trump’s son, his personal attorney, and popular conservative television personalities, which included Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham. The article did not say which of the president’s sons was allegedly being monitored by the State Department.

According to Crowdtangle’s website, the invite-only social media tool can be used by companies and individuals in order to identify and track industry competition and influencers. The platform gives its users three major tools, per its website: content discovery, which alerts users to the biggest news events of the day, competitive analysis, which allows users to compare their own account to other accounts in their industry, and social referrals to track which users are sharing links from particular outlets. The service is primarily used by media outlets, though Judicial Watch said that the company would soon be offering it to certain academics.

Crowdtangle says its national partners include BBC, Vox, Mic, BuzzFeed, and ProPublica. Local news owners involved in the service include Tegna, Advance Digital, Cox Media, Tronc, and Univision.Its website also touts users in the sports industry, including MLBAM and the NHL, in addition to international users. The company’s website does not say that the tool is used by the U.S. State Department.

In 2017, a report from Poynter found that since Facebook made the service free to use, it had been adopted by more than 150 local newsrooms. Poynter noted that the service wold be particularly useful to a small news organization that did not have a dedicated social media team.

Judicial Watch said that a 2018 report from the State Department confirmed that it used the service for purposes of polling data, and learning the difference between social media impressions and social media reach. The conservative group also noted that an official State Department website had an outbound link to Crowdtangle.

Judical Watch reported that the service was founded in 2011 and purchased by Facebook in 2016. The right-wing group claimed that group called the Social Science Research Center (SSRC) is responsible for deciding which companies have access to the service. Judicial Watch noted that in 2016, a group baring the name of Democratic donor billionaire George Soros gave a donation of around $500,000 to SSRC to support two of its programs, one relating to Latin American and another relating to a global initiative aimed at anti-discrimination.

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The conservative group also pointed its audience back to its report last week that claimed former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch ordered her subordinates at the State Department to use the agency’s resources to monitor certain terms, which they say included Biden, Giuliani, Soros, and Yavanovitch.

As CNN previously reported, Yavanovitch testified last week before the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, and Oversight committees in a closed-door meeting with lawmakers that lasted more than nine hours. CNN reports that Yavanovitch was abruptly dismissed as a U.S. Ambassador earlier this year over what she said was “unfounded claims” made by people with clear motives. Yavanovitch was responsible for an anti-corruption investigation that could angered individuals who were concerned about their personal finances, CNN reported.

As The Inquisitr previously noted, the president of the right-wing Judicial Watch urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to use the “nuclear option” in order to kill an impeachment trial should the House vote to impeach the president.