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Data sharing troubles: Tracing the evolution of Facebook’s Graph API

AG Burkhardt Briones

In this working group we focus on Facebook’s data sharing practices as enabled by APIs to trace the platform’s responsiveness in relation to data and privacy controversies. Against the backdrop of ongoing debates about platform regulation and content moderation, the working group conducts an empirical historical analysis that focuses on the platform’s data sharing practices and logics. The goal is to analyse the politics of APIs, by reconstructing an in-depth history and genealogy of Facebook’s Graph API. We advocate that insights drawn from this case study contribute to a more comprehensive digital literacy framework. How are APIs and supplementary documents designed to create contractual relationships between platforms and their developers? And accordingly, how do they relate to governmental regulatory approaches? These general considerations provide the background for an analysis of the economic, social, technical and aesthetic significance of APIs in social media platform design over time. But how does one trace the history of APIs as infrastructural media and as sites of social controversy and contestation? This methodological question is at the centre of the working group. We will develop and carry out a methodological approach for tracing the evolution of social media APIs. The approach developed by the working group will be based on the material traces of software, such as API reference documentation and other developer resources.


María de los Ángeles Briones
Department of Design, Politecnico di Milano


Marcus Burkhardt
Medienwissenschaftliches Seminar, Universität Siegen

Anne Helmond
Department of Media Studies, University of Amsterdam

Tatjana Seitz
GK Locating Media, Universität Siegen

Fernando van der Vlist
Department of Media and Culture Studies, Utrecht University