It's part of an academic study to see what impact the platform will have on the 2020 elections.
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4 min read
The media and government officials have villanized Facebook in large part for unfairly influencing the results of the 2016 US election. Now the social media behemoth is conducting an independent study to determine how much impact it really has on voters.
In a post on their blog, Facebook announced that they will be conducting a "new research partnership to better understand the impact of Facebook and Instagram on key political attitudes and behaviors during the 2020 US election". Selected users of both platforms will receive invitations to participate in the study.
Many contestants who choose to sign up will be asked by Facebook to deactivate their accounts the month before the election. Facebook estimates that between 200,000 and 400,000 US adults will take part in the study. For example, they have to take part in surveys or agree to a different product experience. According to Techspot, attendees can earn up to $ 20 a week.
Related Topics: How To Turn Off Political Ads On Facebook And Instagram
Why is Facebook doing this?
According to Facebook, the study should help to better understand the impact of social media on democracy.
"Facebook has become a stage for democratic debate – between citizens, between candidates and voters, and activists and interest groups to make their case," writes Nick Clegg, vice president of global affairs and communications, and Chaya Nayak, director of Facebook Open Research and transparency team. "That means Facebook and other social media companies have a huge responsibility."
Part of that responsibility is to examine how users use their platform to promote democracy rather than propaganda or so-called "false news".
Facebook and founder Mark Zuckerberg have received major criticism for allowing their platform to be influenced by hostile actors from foreign governments like Russia. They also got heat for allowing political advertising while other social media companies like Twitter banned it.
Some might argue that Facebook's independent study is nothing more than a PR move. Regardless of their motives, the company tries to approach the issue a little proactively before choosing.
Related topics: Here's how Facebook plans to increase transparency during the 2020 US election
How do you choose the participants?
While many people would love to volunteer to get paid to deactivate their account for a few weeks, the study doesn't work that way. Facebook will invite users to take part in the study, which is based on an algorithm. "Study examples are designed to ensure that participants reflect the diversity of the US adult population as well as Facebook and Instagram users," say Clegg and Nayak. While Facebook pays the study participants, they don't pay the researchers to ensure their independence.
What does Facebook ask of the study participants?
Those who sign up for the study are asked to participate in several research methodologies, including surveys, behavioral data analysis, and changes to their user experience. For example, some attendees may see fewer ads in certain categories such as entertainment or politics. Others may see more or less posts in the news feed on certain topics. Other participants are asked to stop using Facebook or Instagram or to install an app on their smartphone that logs other digital media they have consumed.
When will we know the results?
According to Facebook representatives, the study results will not be published until mid-2021 at the earliest. So we just have to wait until Trump or Biden are elected.