On June 7th, without any fanfare or notice, Facebook shut down their browser search tools, throwing investigators and researchers into a frenzy.

While Facebook has sought to address the mounting concern of users and lawmakers over privacy, this shutdown of URL-based search tools has dramatically changed the research process relied upon by many private investigators, law enforcement officers, and opposition researchers. The information collection process will now be much more difficult and time-consuming.

A good messaging campaign relies on good opposition research, a tool that can change the trajectory of a race. Knowing your own liabilities and those of your opponent is key to making the right messaging decisions and educating voters about your contrasting opinions on issues that matter most to them. Facebook and other social media platforms have long been a prime source of information revealing a candidate’s position on the top political issues of the day. In many instances, the bulk of a completed opposition research report would be information gleaned from social media activity.

Now, the tools researchers used to narrow and speed up their Facebook searches, made possible by Facebook’s “Graph API” URL search tools, have been suspended indefinitely.

Facebook has made no public statement about the change, although one spokesperson responded to queries by Jason Cox at Motherboard. “The vast majority of people on Facebook search using keywords,” they said. “A factor which led us to pause some aspects of graph search and focus more on improving keyword search. We are working closely with researchers to make sure they have the tools they need to use our platform.”*

This action does seem, on the surface, like a win for those concerned with the privacy of their online data. However, Facebook has long sought new ways to profit off its user’s data and it could now be making a play to protect their hold on it even more.

This isn’t to say that graph search itself is completely eradicated. “The graph search ability is still present in Facebook’s infrastructure but you can’t do it with a plain, URL stating what you need,” says Michael Bazzell of The Privacy, Security, and OSNIT Show.* “You can still pull a lot of this information. You’ve just gotta do some processing on the background.”

The bottom line: the research process will now require more time and a stronger grasp of the technical requirements necessitated by these changes. The research team at Victory Enterprises is actively seeking new ways to effectively find information on social media and search for the tools on which so many campaigns have come to rely. What this means for clients is fairly simple:

Don’t wait to contact us regarding your research needs. Critical campaign intelligence is still out there to be found, but the time requirements of the process have increased.

At Victory Enterprises, we aim to provide your campaign with useful intelligence in an easily-consumable format to inform your polling and messaging efforts, laying the groundwork for a win on Election Day. No matter how technology may change, we will continue to offer a research product that is second-to-none, made possible by an exhaustive research process that seeks to leave no stone unturned.

We can’t wait to get started on your project. When you’re ready, reach out for your FREE consultation today through our website. 

*As reported by Joseph Cox with Tech by Vice, June 10th, 2019