Facebook teams with nonprofits to launch election research commission

Facebook’s post-Cambridge Analytica apology tour continues this morning with the announcement of an initiative aimed at helping social science researchers gauge the site’s impact on key political events.

In a post issued this morning, the company’s Vice President of Communications and Public Policy Director of Research outlined the plan and hammered home its focus on impartial data collection. “Facebook will not have any right to review or approve their research findings prior to publication,” the pair writes.

The initiative is backed by a who’s who of nonprofit foundations that will sound familiar to anyone who’s spent any time with the dial tuned to NPR. The group hopes lessons learned from Brexit and the presidential election will help shed some light on how the social media behemoth could potentially impact upcoming elections like U.S. midterms, Brazil, India and Mexico — a pretty aggressive timeframe for this kind of work.

“[W]e think it’s an important new model for partnerships between industry and academia,” the pair writes. “Second, the last two years have taught us that the same Facebook tools that help politicians connect with their constituents — and different communities debate the issues they care about — can also be misused to manipulate and deceive.” 

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If you’ve followed me for a while, you know one of my top priorities for 2018 in making sure Facebook prevents…

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Monday, April 9, 2018

Mark Zuckerberg addressed the creation of the commission in a post today that once again acknowledged that Facebook’s response time could have been better. The site has gotten pushback from nearly all sides on its handling of the issue, including a recent dressing down from the U.S. Senate.

“Looking back, it’s clear we were too slow identifying election interference in 2016, and we need to do better in future elections,” the CEO writes. “This is a new model of collaboration between researchers and companies, and it’s part of our commitment to protect the integrity of elections around the world.”

No word yet on the timeframe for all of this, but Zuckerberg promised an update “soon.”

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