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Photo illustration: Manish Rajput/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook will enlist academics to study whether and how its platforms end up influencing the 2020 U.S. presidential election, the company announced Monday.

Between the lines: Facebook is trying to show it's being mindful of its potential to amplify election-related misinformation. In 2016, CEO Mark Zuckerberg famously said it was a "pretty crazy idea" that Facebook had any influence over that election, which was quickly proven wrong.

Details: A group of 17 outside academics will work with Facebook on experiments in which users will see tweaked News Feeds and ad experiences.

  • Those participants will then be surveyed on their experiences and asked about their viewpoints. The idea will be to assess whether exposure to different experiences on Facebook and Instagram sways people's views.
  • Facebook plans on publishing results next year. It won't have any veto power over the results.

Context: Foreign-fueled misinformation, along with increasingly volatile political discourse, spread on Facebook before the 2016 presidential election, something Facebook has had to reckon with since, facing Congressional hearings and other scrutiny.

What they're saying: "We need to better understand whether social media... largely reflects the divisions that already exist; if it helps people to become better informed about politics, or less; or if it affects people’s attitudes towards government and democracy, including whether and how they vote," Nick Clegg, Facebook's VP of global affairs and communications and Chaya Nayak, head of Facebook’s open research and transparency team, wrote.

Go deeper

Justice Department sues Facebook over favoring H-1B workers

Photo: Ting Shen/Xinhua via Getty Images

The Justice Department is suing Facebook, alleging that the tech giant discriminated against American workers by intentionally reserving more than 2,600 jobs for immigrants on H-1B visas, the department announced Thursday.

Details: The department's two-year investigation found that Facebook gave jobs to visa holders whom the company sponsored for green cards, while failing to properly advertise the open positions or consider U.S.-born workers.

Big Tech's reputation takes a pandemic plunge

Expand chart
Data: Harris Poll; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Americans have fallen further out of love with Big Tech, the latest Axios/Harris 100 brand reputation poll shows.

Why it matters: Even though Americans were hyper-connected to their devices throughout the pandemic, their relationship with many of the world's biggest tech firms has continued on a downward trend, suggesting that people see their products as necessary evils.

There's an ETF for everything, except bitcoin

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Happiness. Weed. Robots. Water. Whatever the theme, there's probably an ETF promoting a basket of stocks related to it.

Why it matters: Thematic ETFs are an investment mania side effect. There's newfound retail investor interest in narrow exposure to hot corners of the stock market. More are launching to meet the moment.