Facebook finally gives researchers access to promised data
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."
- The effort has proven tougher than expected, with researchers so far getting their hands on far less data than they had hoped for amid the challenges of protecting user privacy.
- The philanthropic backers of that project, who have reportedly balked at the limits Facebook has placed on providing data, are pulling back on funding new researchers.
"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