Facebook is committed to preventing manipulation of elections through social media by funding research on the impact of social media on elections.
Facebook announced the involvement of 60 researchers from 30 academic institutions across 11 countries that were selected by the Social Science Research Council and the independent group Social Science One.
The research began in 2018 following revelations of influence on the 2016 US election and the Brexit vote, and this week the social network giant revealed its first grants.
“We hope this initiative will deepen public understanding of the role social media has on elections and democracy and help Facebook and other companies improve their products and practices.” reads a blog post by Facebook executives Elliot Schrage and Chaya Nayak. “This initiative will deepen our work with universities around the world as we continue to improve our ability to address current threats and anticipate new ones.”
Over the past months, Facebook has begun building a data sharing infrastructure to provide researchers access to Facebook data in a secure way and preserving the users’ privacy.
Facebook is also testing the application of differential privacy that adds statistical noise to raw data sets to prevent the identification of an individual. The social media platform also limits the number of queries a researcher can run to prevent circumventing of privacy measures.
“The urgency of this research cannot be overstated,” Social Science One wrote in a press release. “Concerns about disinformation, polarization, political advertising, and the role of platforms in the information ecosystem have not diminished. If anything, they have heightened.”
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