New Facebook research initiative tackles social media's effects on elections

Facebook last Monday, August 31, launched a new research partnership that seeks to gain a better understanding of the impact of Facebook and Instagram on "key political attitudes and behaviors during the US 2020 elections."

The new partnership builds on another initiative they launched in 2018 that also aided scholars in looking to understand social media's effects on voting.

Earlier, Facebook also launched a voting information center for US users that seeks to promote voter registration, targeting 4 million potential voters to register.

The new partnership is between Facebook researchers and independent external academics, and will be led by independent professors Talia Stroud and Joshua Tucker. They will be leading a team of 15 researchers.

The external researchers will not be paid by Facebook. Facebook also promises that they won't be answering to the company. Findings will be published in academic journals in open access format, and will be publicly available.

The research initiative is part of Facebook's broader effort on protecting elections as the platform continues to battle interference from state actors. It said that since 2016, when Russian interference surfaced, the company has added 3 times more people working on safety and security issues, totaling around 35,000.

It also said that it has helped fight interference in more than 200 elections since 2017, and the distribution of fake news on the platform have been reduced by 50%.

The research, while focused on US elections, will likely bear results and possible changes that would impact Facebook, and its effects on elections in other countries. –

Gelo Gonzales

Gelo Gonzales is Rappler’s technology editor. He covers consumer electronics, social media, emerging tech, and video games.