Facebook offers data for study on social media's election impact

Nicholas Sakelaris
Voters cast ballots during the U.S. midterm elections in Alexandria, Va., on November 6, 2018. Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI
Voters cast ballots during the U.S. midterm elections in Alexandria, Va., on November 6, 2018. Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI | License Photo

April 29 (UPI) -- Facebook said Monday it will make company data available to researchers who want to study the impact of social media on the electoral process.

The researchers said they will use "privacy-protected Facebook data" to study the role of social media for elections in Germany and Chile in 2017 -- research it says is also important because of forthcoming elections in Europe and the United States.


Facebook said it's collaborated with Social Science One, which can track how every link is shared on Facebook, how many times its shared, whether it's spread person-to-person or in groups, and how often it is flagged as spam, hate speech or misinformation. The data set also determines whether a link is hard news, fake news and whether it's been vetted by Facebook's internal fact checkers.

"The urgency of this research cannot be overstated," Social Science One said in a statement "Elections in India are already underway, the European Parliamentary elections will take place in short order and the U.S. presidential primary campaigns have begun in earnest.

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"Concerns about disinformation, polarization, political advertising and the role of platforms in the informational ecosystem have no diminished. If anything, they have heightened."

Facebook Vice President for Special Projects Elliot Schrage and Strategic Initiatives Manager Chaya Nayak wrote in a blog post the company has made "significant improvement" to monitor for abuse and false news.

More than 60 researchers from 30 academic institutions across 11 countries were chosen for the study.

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"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," Schrage and Nayak wrote. "We've begun building a first-of-its-kind data sharing infrastructure to provide researchers access to Facebook data in a secure manner that protects people's privacy."

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