Facebook has announced a new research initiative in partnership with seven eminent nonprofit foundations in a bid to study the effect of social media on elections. Under this initiative, social science researchers will propose research projects for peer review bearing upon series of general research goals. Once a proposal is approved, the researchers will collect the anonymized data from Facebook as well as the funding from the foundations that accompany it.
Essentially, Facebook “will not have any right to review or approve their research findings prior to publication,” however, it may have influence over the projects that will be approved.
In a Facebook post, CEO Mark Zuckerberg stated that this attempt was made as a reaction to the Russian campaigns that were aimed at the 2016 election. He wrote, “Looking back, it’s clear we were too slow identifying election interference in 2016, and we need to do better in future elections.”
The system challenges a complicated issue for Facebook, which is still revolving from the scandal surrounding the unauthorized data collection by Cambridge Analytica. The data was collected under the guise of academic research, and Facebook has severed all ties with some of its data partners during the period of the scandal. In light of this, researchers have emphasized the need for further enquiry into the impact of Facebook on the society as a means of responding to the complicated questions brought about by the scandal. The research frequently requires data from Facebook especially when the network is tending to close ranks.
The time when the initiative will launch its first round of projects has not been stated and the slow pace of academic research has made it somewhat difficult for any findings will be complete before the November 2018 midterms. Facebook is experimenting on its own review of problematic content posted during the election, also scheduled to be released after November.