Feb 14, 2020 - Technology

Facebook finally gives researchers access to promised 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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Facebook offers up to $5 for voice recordings to train speech recognition

Facebook logo. Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Facebook is offering users up to $5 via PayPal to record themselves saying "Hey Portal" and then list the first names of no more than 10 Facebook friends, The Verge reports and Axios has confirmed.

The big picture: Facebook is pitching users a small amount of money in exchange for personal data to train its speech recognition tech after reports that it and other Big Tech companiesGoogle, Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon — have listened to their users for that reason without consent.

Facebook's decade of unstoppable growth

Despite an onslaught of scrutiny and scandal over the past few years, Facebook closed out the second decade of the millennium stronger than ever.

The big picture: The tech giant brought in nearly $70 billion in revenue for 2019, up more than 25% from the year prior and up more than 1300% from 2012, the year it went public.

Go deeperArrowJan 30, 2020

Europe nixes Facebook's plea for friendly rules

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Facebook is doubling down on its big pitch to lawmakers across the globe: regulate us.

Yes, but: Key regulators aren't buying it. Hours after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg met with lawmakers in Europe to discuss the company's new proposals for regulation, a French commissioner overseeing the EU's data strategy rejected the plan, saying "It’s not enough. It’s too slow, it’s too low in terms of responsibility and regulation."