Facebook announced Monday to open access to its internal data to researchers and academics studying the impact of social networks on elections, as part of an effort to prevent manipulation on these platforms.
According to the world leader in social networking, some 60 researchers from 30 academic institutions in 11 countries have been selected under the umbrella of independent research groups, the Social Science Research Council and Social Science One.
Facebook launched this initiative last year after the revelation of influence campaigns by foreign countries on the 2016 US elections and the Brexit vote in Britain.
“To ensure the independence of research and researchers, Facebook has played no role in the selection of researchers or their projects and will have no influence on the results or conclusions of the research”, said on a blog of the leaders of the group, Elliot Schrage and Chaya Nayak.
“We hope this initiative will help Facebook and other companies improve their products and practices,” they added.
Researchers will be granted access to Facebook’s internal data via “a new data sharing infrastructure that allows researchers to access Facebook’s data in a secure way, protecting personal information,” the blog says.
“Some of these steps include creating a process to remove the identification of personal information and allowing only researchers to access all data through a secure portal.”
Gary King and Nathaniel Persily of the Social Science One group said in a statement that researchers plan to act quickly to help social networks improve their security and integrity.
“We must not underestimate the urgency of this research,” they said.
“Elections in India are currently taking place, in the European Parliament, elections are taking place in a short time and campaigns for the primaries of the presidential election in the United States have started seriously,” note these experts.
“Concerns about misinformation, division, political advertising and the role of platforms in the information ecosystem have not diminished, on the contrary,” they continue.
Some of the research groups cited are based at Northeastern University, Ohio University, New York University and Virginia Tech University.
Outside the United States, researchers’ cells come from France, Taiwan, Italy, Brazil, Germany, the Netherlands and Chile.