UPDATED 7:40 AM PT — Tuesday, April 30, 2019
Facebook is moving forward with a research initiative to analyze the role of social media in elections and democracy as a whole. The social media giant announced it will provide funding, and team up with 60 researchers and 30 academic institutions from 11 countries around the world.
The research initiative was launched last spring. Facebook worked with a pair of third party research institutes, the Social Science Research Council and Social Science One, to choose research partners for the project. Facebook said it did not play a role in the selection process to solidify the credibility of the project’s ultimate findings.
The researchers will have access to privacy protected Facebook data, and hope to deepen public understanding of how content sharing on social media platforms can influence political elections.
“The best technology in most areas is human empowered and computer assisted. The computer doesn’t tell us what an interesting idea is. Although, more and more, can help us get a sense of the potential interesting ideas, but it’s only the human that’s going to choose those.” — Gary King, co-chair- Social Science One
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress after upwards of $126 million Facebook users were exposed to political misinformation from a Russian agency hoping to influence the result of the 2016 presidential election.
Zuckerberg stills says he can’t guarantee foreign countries won’t interfere in the upcoming 2020 presidential election.
“I’m confident in where we are now — we’ve learned a lot since 2016, where obviously we were behind where we needed to be,” he stated. “But the reality is there isn’t a single thing we can do and say: ‘alright we put this in place, so now they can’t even try to interfere’…they’re always going to try.”
Facebook hopes the new research initiative will provide insight into how social media companies can protect users from manipulation and foreign influence campaigns.