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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

Go deeper:

Go deeper

FBI report likely to show record increase in murders in 2020

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

If the FBI data released next week shows what's expected — that 2020 saw the highest single-year spike in U.S. murders in at least six decades — experts say the sudden job losses, fears and other jolts to society at the start of COVID-19 will likely have been the overwhelming drivers.

Why it matters: Many Democrats already feared that rising crime could hurt their party in the 2022 midterms.

7 mins ago - Health

Some experts see signs of hope as COVID cases fall

Expand chart
Data: N.Y. Times; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

New coronavirus cases are continuing to decline, and some experts are cautiously optimistic that the virus will continue to wane even into the fall and winter.

The big picture: The next few months are highly uncertain, and some localized outbreaks are all but guaranteed. But the U.S. is at least moving in the right direction again.

Air quality alerts issued as California fires threaten more sequoias

The Windy Fire blazes through the Long Meadow Grove of giant sequoia trees near the Trail of 100 Giants in Sequoia National Forest, near California Hot Springs, on Tuesday. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

Two wildfires were threatening California's sequoia trees over overnight — hours after authorities issued fresh evacuation orders and warnings, along with air quality alerts.

The big picture: Air quality alerts were issued Wednesday for the Bay Area and the San Joaquin Valley as smoke from the Windy and KNP Complex fires resulted in hazy, "ash-filled" skies from Fresno to Tulare, the Los Angeles Times notes.