Facebook said Monday that it is working with outside researchers to study the social impact of social media sites during the 2020 U.S. presidential election. The company said the results of the study would not be released until the middle of next year at the earliest. The program is an extension of its Social Science One program, whose researchers study the political impact of social media. A team of 17 independent researchers from the fields of elections, democracy and social media will work with data scientists within Facebook to design the study.
The company expects 200,000 to 400,000 users to choose the project, which will document what they see and how they behave on Facebook and Instagram.
The project will make targeted changes to the experience of certain participants, such as ads or the type of posts shown to them.
Facebook employees will provide aggregated data to outside scholars to protect the privacy of these users.
Online social networks have been criticized for fake news stories and misintenation, which many say affected voters and influenced the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
Facebook says it will not pay researchers or restrict them from publishing their findings, but has the right to review them before they are published.
Joshua Tucker, a professor of political science at New York University and one of the project’s researchers, said that while Facebook does not pay researchers, it pays for research, such as the cost of survey providers.
Facebook’s Social Science One program, which began in 2018, was originally supported by philanthropists, but the charity said it was canceled last year because of a delay in providing data to researchers. It is alleged that the delay in providing data was the result of privacy concerns.