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 methods of statistical analysis to assist researchers with their projects. Researchers are now putting in the substantial extra effort required to find the answers to important questions about the effects of social media in different types of representative democracies. We eagerly look forward to publication of their research.
Today, we are happy to announce another new approach to industry-academic research collaboration that enables social scientists access to new types of data to conduct a detailed study of the impact of Facebook on the 2020 US presidential election. In this approach, outside scholars will work together with Facebook data scientists to produce publishable scholarship. The key to this collaboration is that all the researchers will design the studies together; external researchers will access only privacy protected data (via techniques such as de-identification, differential privacy, or aggregation) with user consent for individual level analysis whereas only Facebook employees will have access to the private data and only when essential; researcher publications will not be subject to pre-publication approval by the company; and no outside researchers will be paid by Facebook.
We selected Professors Talia Stroud (from the University of Texas and the chair of Social Science One’s North America Committee) and Joshua Tucker (from NYU and chair of Social Science One’s Election Integrity Committee) to lead this new effort. Talia and Josh have assembled a large team of academics to work collaboratively with Facebook researchers to plan and implement the research. For further information on the creation and goals of this new effort, please see a post from Josh and Talia, and another from Facebook.
We are excited to see what we all learn about social media, elections, and democracy from these important developments.
Gary King and Nate Persily