Facebook announces a new research partnership to examine the impact of both Facebook and Instagram on key political trends in the upcoming elections

Facebook has recently announced a new research partnership that it is working on since 2018, and will now be using it to study the impact its platform and Instagram may have on the key political trends, attitudes, and user behavior in the upcoming elections.

It all started after the uproar caused by the Cambridge Analytica Scandal in 2016. To avoid such an unfortunate incident again, in 2018, Facebook started a project that was meant to examine the impact of user interactions with the products and content of Facebook and all social platforms. It was also meant to study the role these social media platforms play in political discourse, by looking at the key trends of content sharing around the 2016 election, along with the incorporation of features like content ranking systems. So, since the Cambridge Analytica scandal had given a bad name to the company, any such study was proposed to be carried out in a better way for Facebook to share its data without compromising user privacy. However, this feat could not be achieved due to many reasons, but mainly because Facebook had tightened its user data security policies after the incident.

However, after two years, Facebook has come up with a better plan. In this research project, Facebook will take explicit informed consent from users who willingly become a part of this research project. They will know that their data will be analyzed on an individual level, and with their consent, it will be used to study and understand patterns that may help in future election campaigns with more accuracy and transparency. Facebook also says that their studies and consent language have been analyzed and approved by an International Review Board so that it is confirmed that the company is adhering to high ethical standards.

It would have been better if Facebook could use trends around the 2016 election and use them now, but due to some reasons mentioned above, Facebook will be studying the trends around the 2020 Election now. With the permission of participants in the 2020 election study, Facebook can provide insights and data on key sharing trends and shifts, and may also determine which groups are more likely to share misinformation, and which parties are more inclined towards complete transparency and which are not?

This project will also explain the role of Facebook and Instagram in managing these trends. Whether they exacerbate some situations or diminish some trends - everything can be evaluated and can lead to better-informed policy approaches and discussion around how these platforms can be used in the right manner.

However, not all is lost yet. The initial papers of this project will be available in 2021, but Facebook has taken some other measures to ensure almost-complete transparency.

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