Facebook Joins Research Team Examining Social Media Impact During Elections

Recently, Facebook said that it would provide its data to academics studying the impact of social media on elections.

Researchers are trying to prevent the manipulation of social platforms to sway elections one way or the other.

Facebook announced that around 60 researchers from 30 academic institutions from 11 countries had been selected by the Social Science Research Council and the independent Social Science One group.

Last year, Facebook started the research initiative after alleged foreign influence campaigns having to do with the 2016 US election and Britain’s Brexit vote.

Facebook started to entertain proposals last year; on Monday it revealed its first research grant.

As noted by Facebook executives Elliot Schrage and Chaya Nayak, “To assure the independence of the research and the researchers, Facebook did not play any role in the selection of the individuals or their projects and will have no role in directing the findings or conclusions of the research. We hope this initiative will deepen public understanding of the role social media has on our elections and democracy and help Facebook and other companies improve their products and practices.”

Schrage and Nayak also noted that the researchers will be given access through a “first-of-its-kind data sharing infrastructure to provide researchers access to Facebook data in a secure manner that protects people’s privacy. Some of these steps include building a process to remove personally identifiable information from the data set and only allowing researcher access to the data set through a secure portal.”

Executives of Social Science One, Gary king and Nathaniel Persily, have said in a statement that the researchers are working to move swiftly and help social networks improve security measures and integrity.

They also noted that “The urgency of this research cannot be overstated.”