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Photo illustration: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Facebook has provided one of its largest data sets ever to Social Science One, an independent research commission comprised of third-party academics, to analyze the data in an effort to better understand Facebook's role in the democratic process.

Why it matters: Facebook has a long and complicated relationship with researchers, and particularly researchers who try to access its data for election research. It wants to protect user privacy and its aggregate data, which its business depends on.

The big picture: This is the largest data set Facebook has ever handed over to researchers. The group says Facebook has handed over roughly a petabyte of data, with about one trillion numbers in it.

  • The set includes almost every public user URL that Facebook users have clicked on.
  • The public can see the codebook of the data set on http://socialscience.one
  • The data is broken down by geography, demographic, ideology, summaries of what the other end of the link entails.
  • There's also aggregated data. (How many people liked a post, reacted to a post, etc.)

Who's backing it: The research is being funded by seven foundations.

  • No research funding will come from Facebook.
  • A third party, the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), will independently administer research funding, lead the peer review process, and work with Social Science One to manage the research.

How it works: Facebook is not involved in the peer review process and academics can choose what they wish to research.

  • There are unique privacy protections to ensure the data is used and accessed properly. This particular data set has no individual sets of data.
  • For now, this is just a Facebook-focused project, but researchers say they hope to expand beyond Facebook to Facebook-owned apps, like WhatsApp, Instagram. Messenger, etc.
  • Researchers concede that the research will become more difficult as more communication transitions to encrypted messaging platforms, like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

Flashback: Facebook announced in April that would be providing this data to Social Science One. Social Science One wants to work with other social networks, but says that for now they are just setting up the data research partnership with Facebook.

  • "We definitely have plans to talk other companies to see if they are interested," Gary King, co-chair of the commission, told reporters on a call Wednesday. "We think this can scale to other companies if they are interested."

Go deeper

Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults

A vaccination center installed at the Barbara Chapel of St Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, Austria. Photo: Alex Halada/AFP via Getty Images

Austria's lower house of parliament voted on Thursday in favor of making COVID-19 vaccinations compulsory for most adults from next month.

Why it matters: The bill is expected to soon pass the upper house and be signed by President Alexander Van der Bellen in order for the law to take effect Feb. 1, per Reuters. It'd make Austria the first EU nation to impose such a sweeping mandate.

Hope King, author of Closer
Updated 6 hours ago - Economy & Business

Peloton pumps its brakes

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Peloton’s popularity is falling as swiftly as it shot up.

Why it matters: Not all pandemic habits stick around. Peloton's trajectory over the past two years exemplifies how challenging it's been for companies to gauge shifts in consumer demand — particularly in sectors heavily altered by the pandemic.

Mitch McConnell's remarks on Black voters raise ire

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell during a Capitol Hill news conference earlier this year. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been widely criticized for comments he made this week about Black American voters.

Driving the news: When asked by a reporter Wednesday about concerns among voters of color, McConnell said "the concern is misplaced, because if you look at the statistics, Black American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans."