Partnering with seven prominent nonprofit foundations, Facebook announced to provide privacy-protected data to the election researchers to study the role of social media in elections. It is a new initiative from Facebook in which social science researchers will propose research projects for some general research goals. If a proposal gets approved, Facebook will provide the anonymized data to the researchers. Researchers will also be backed by the funds from foundations. These foundations include: Democracy Fund, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, James L. Knight Foundation, the John and Laura Arnold Foundation, the Charles Koch Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Omidyar Network. One of the most important part of this initiative is that Facebook does not hold any right to review or approve the research and foundings of the researchers before publication. It will provide the data protecting the privacy of users while providing researchers with data. It may have some control on the basis of which projects are approved.
What will be the process for research?
A committee of outside experts will be working on a research to study the impact of social media on elections. This committee will include US academic experts, who will come with questions for peers to research them. The access to privacy-protected data will be provided to the researchers.
Effect of Facebook on Elections
Mark Zuckerberg stated in his recent Facebook post that looking to the upcoming elections in the world, they will be making some changes. The Russian interference in 2016 elections was later on identified by Facebook and hence they need to get better in future elections. Facebook is still surrounded by the Cambridge Analytica scandal. In the wake of scandal, Facebook has ended tie-ups with a number of data partners. The unauthorized data collection by Cambridge Analytica has made Facebook to make huge changes. At the same time, researchers have also raised a voice to study the effect of Facebook over the society. The questions raised after Cambridge Analytica scandal would get easier to answer after a proper research is made on it. So, this research would require a data from Facebook.
It is not yet announced when the first project of the initiative will launch. But, the speed at which these researches are conducted, it is impossible to get any findings before November 2018.