Apr 9, 2018 - Technology

Facebook says it will provide data to elections researchers

A sign outside of Facebook's office with the "Like" symbol

The sign outside of Facebook headquarters. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Facebook said Monday it will provide some of its data to elections researchers selected by a new panel of experts.

The bigger picture: There have been calls for Facebook to let academics peer into the workings of its opaque platform. The announcement comes a day before CEO Mark Zuckerberg's testimony to Congress.

Yes, but: Facebook executives said in a blog post that the "focus will be entirely forward looking." Translation: this isn't an opportunity to solely reexamine Russia's interference in the 2016 election.

How it works:

  • A committee of outside experts will "develop a research agenda about the impact of social media on society — starting with elections."
  • That will include bringing in researchers and, in some cases, giving them access to Facebook data. "Once the commission identifies the most important questions, we are committed to helping grantees obtain the right data to answer them," the executives said in their post.
  • A group of private, blue-chip foundations will pay for the effort. Facebook says it will work to protect the privacy of users while providing researchers with data, but "will not have any right to review or approve their research findings prior to publication."
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