Whatever the reason, researchers expressed frustration that crucial data and thousands of posts are now gone.
“This makes it impossible for people outside the social media to piece together the backstory on any of this,” said Clinton Watts, a fellow with the Foreign Policy Research Institute and a former FBI agent, when told of Facebook’s actions.
Watts, who has studied Russian disinformation for years, said it’s reasonable for social media companies to want to delete false or misleading material on their platforms, but the consequences in this instance could undermine public understanding of what happened during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“All of that data from social media companies has to come together,” he said. “Operating in silos will never give us a full understanding of what went down.”