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Some changes at Social Science One

Social Science One is now housed at Harvard’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science and is supported by a small endowment, which gives us a little elbow room. Unrelatedly, Nate Persily, after two years of devoting his life to this enterprise and all of us in the research community, is stepping down as co-chair (see his statement below). You may also have seen the announcement about our new Facebook 2020 US Election Study and updates to the “Condor” URLs dataset (now covering 46 countries and including more than 17 trillion differentially private cell values), as well as our more general efforts on differential privacy through our new collaboration with Microsoft and our Sloan Foundation grant for a community effort known as OpenDP.

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New Data, New Datasets, New Research Projects

In January of this year, we released the Facebook URLs dataset for scholarly analysis.  We are happy to report that we have been able to arrange with Facebook to release an updated version of the dataset, now extending to 46 countries. We have also been able to approve more than 100 scholars in seventeen teams for access to this dataset, all of whom will also receive the updated version, with other scholars in our approval pipeline.  Given the unprecedented scale of the dataset, along with the deployment of a novel application of differential privacy, we have developed new...

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Unprecedented Facebook URLs Dataset now Available for Academic Research through Social Science One

Gary King and Nathaniel Persily

We are excited to announce that Social Science One and Facebook have completed, and are now making available to academic researchers, one of the largest social science datasets ever constructed. We processed approximately an exabyte (a quintillion bytes, or a billion gigabytes) of raw data from the platform.  The dataset itself contains a total of more than 10 trillion numbers that summarize information about 38 million URLs shared worldwide more than 100 times publicly on Facebook (between 1/1/2017 and 7/...

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Analyzing Data From Facebook

The URLs Light dataset, which we have released, and the much larger URLs Full Dataset, which will be on its way soon, are protected by the principles of "differential privacy". We implemented differential privacy by adding specially calibrated noise to each dataset. The noise guarantees that individuals who may be represented in the data cannot be reidentified, and any clicks, shares, or others actions cannot be associated with any one person.  Despite the noise, differential privacy makes it possible for statistical analysts to learn social science patterns from the... Read more about Analyzing Data From Facebook

Public statement from the Co-Chairs and European Advisory Committee of Social Science One

In recent years digital platforms have made independent scientific research into potentially consequential phenomena such as online disinformation, polarization, and echo chambers virtually impossible by restricting scholars’ access to the platforms’ application programming interfaces (APIs). The Social Science One [https://socialscience.one] initiative, specifically designed to provide scholars with access to privacy protected data, has made important progress over the last 18 months, but Facebook has still not provided academics with anything approaching adequate data access. ...

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Collaboration with Microsoft on an Open Source Privacy Platform

We at Social Science One are excited to share the news of a major new industry-academic collaboration. This is between Microsoft, Social Science One co-chair Gary King and Harvard’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science on an Open Data Differential Privacy Platform.

The goal of the project is to build an open source platform to ensure data can be shared privately, while enabling researchers across sectors including academia, government and the private sector to gain new and novel insights that can rapidly advance human knowledge....

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Social Science One Announces Access to Facebook Dataset of Publicly Shared URLs for Research

While the project to facilitate the study of Facebook data to better understand the role of social media on elections and democracy has taken longer to build the privacy-preserving tools than expected, we are now making steady progress.

We are pleased to share that Facebook has made available for research access to a new (“differentially private”) dataset through...

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Joint Statement from Social Science One and Facebook

Social Science One and Facebook issue the following statement:

“We are grateful for the initial support from the Social Media and Democracy Foundation Funders and the Social Science Research Council to our project. Their efforts over this planned one year term have been integral to setting this important work in motion and we thank them. As the organizations responsible for initiating this project and managing the infrastructure for independent academic study and privacy-preserving data access, we look forward to continuing and expanding our efforts.

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Building Infrastructure for Studying Social Media’s Role in Elections and Democracy 

When we created Social Science One over a year ago, we promised to give periodic updates on our progress in making privacy-protected Facebook data accessible to the world’s scientific community. As we reported in previous blog posts, we have made great strides in setting up infrastructure under our new “trusted third party” model for industry-academic partnerships. This work must continue. The future of social science research depends on collaborations between independent researchers and...

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How to think about the Research Data Agreement with Facebook

Gary King and Nathaniel Persily, Co-chairs
Social Science One

 


The ambition and importance of what was initially known as the Facebook Election Commission, now Social Science One, is only equaled by the challenges we have faced to establish the legal, privacy, and partnership frameworks needed to get this fully off the ground. Yet, progress is now coming at a much faster clip. We are encouraged by this progress and are excited about the monumental consequences to... Read more about How to think about the Research Data Agreement with Facebook