New data will give insight into Facebook’s influence on elections

On Monday, Facebook announced a new set of research projects that will analyze the impact of social networks on democracy. The projects will give more than 60 academics access to "privacy-protected Facebook data" to help conduct research on a variety of topics, including the impact of the IRA on the 2017 elections in Germany and the dissemination of false news during the Chilean elections in the same year.

Facebook will provide researchers with data on the Platform APIs for CrowdTangle, its Ad Library and, eventually, an anonymized URL data set. Researchers from around the world competed for grants, although Facebook was not involved in determining which projects were approved. The company is also committed not to interfere with the investigation in the future.

"To ensure the independence of research and researchers, Facebook played no role in the selection of individuals or their projects and will have no role in directing the findings or conclusions of the investigation," Elliot Schrage, vice president of special projects, and Chaya Nayak, manager of strategic initiatives, wrote in a blog post.

According to Social Science One, researchers will have access to some of these data immediately, such as the CrowdTangle API, while other sets of data will be provided in stages once their "evidence indicates that both are useful for academic research. and comply with the appropriate privacy and privacy, legal regulations. "

Facebook's research partnership with Social Science One began last year when the company allowed researchers to access an immense data set that included a continuously updated database of all shared links publicly available on the platform from January 2017. It included information such as how a link was viewed and how it was spread across the platform.

"The urgency of this investigation can not be overstated," Social Science One wrote in a press release. "Concerns about misinformation, polarization, political advertising and the role of platforms in the information ecosystem have not diminished. In any case, they have increased. "

The collaboration of Social Science One fell under a slight cloud last summer when Facebook suspended Crimson Hexagon, a company co-founded by Social Science One co-chair Gary King Facebook alleged that Crimson Hexagon had collected data from the platform in violation of Facebook's policies, King denied any connection to the alleged crime, telling The Wall Street Journal that "he had never been involved in the daily operations of the company. "

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