Feb 14, 2020 - Technology

Facebook finally gives researchers access to promised data

Illustration of FB profile image filled with data

Illustration:Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Nearly two years after it promised to do so, Facebook has made a huge chunk of data available for research use in partnership with a new not-for-profit organization, Social Science One.

Why it matters: One way to better understand the impact that Facebook is having on society is to have academic experts analyze the data. The company, though, has been slow to release promised data.

Details: The billion-gigabyte dataset will let researchers see millions of links that users shared on Facebook over more than two and a half years, plus:

  • Whether the links were fact-checked or flagged as hate speech
  • Data on who viewed, shared, liked or otherwise interacted with the links

Both Social Science One and Facebook acknowledge the effort was harder than anticipated.

  • "We thought this day would take about two months of work; it has taken 20," Social Science One's Gary King and Nathaniel Persily said in a blog post.

The big picture: Facebook first promised to release data to academics back in April 2018 as part of a foundation-backed project "to help provide independent, credible research about the role of social media in elections, as well as democracy more generally."

"No organization has invested more in this effort than Facebook, and we are committed to continuing to provide access to data for independent academic research while ensuring that we also protect people's privacy."
— Facebook, in a statement to Axios in December

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