Facebook has announced its first grants for independent research on social media’s impact on democracy that will investigate, among other things, the role of technology platforms in spread of misinformation.
Social media platforms have come under intense scrutiny around the world ever since allegations surfaced of Russian-linked accounts trying to influence the 2016 US presidential election.
For the study, more than 60 researchers were chosen from 30 academic institutions across 11 countries through a competitive peer review process by the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) and the independent group Social Science One.
These researchers will gain access to privacy-protected Facebook data.
“We hope this initiative will deepen public understanding of the role social media has on elections and democracy and help Facebook and other companies improve their products and practices,” Elliot Schrage, Vice President for Special Projects at Facebook and the company’s Strategic Initiatives Manager Chaya Nayak wrote in a blog post on Monday.
Facebook said it did not play any role in the selection of the individuals or their projects and will have no role in directing the findings or conclusions of the research.
These grantees will seek to use access to Facebook data to better explain how political news is shared in European multiparty political systems and to understand how social events or technology platform changes influence communication behaviour such as spreading disinformation, among other issues, SSRC said.
The projects also seek to provide a richer understanding of the relationship between social media platforms like Facebook and traditional news media, it added.