Giving Compass’ Take:
• Not fake news: The Hewlett, Knight, and Koch foundations — along with other major funders — are planning to finance research on Facebook’s role in elections and the mechanisms of our democracy, with full cooperation from the social network itself.
• In the wake of Mark Zuckerberg’s appearance before Congress, this will be a project that all impact investors and actors should keep their eyes on. The announcement notes that the research is intended not to just explain behavior, but to also offer potential solutions on how to use social media to improve democracy (not undermine it).
• There are other ways Facebook can help rebuild public trust and use data for good. Here’s a start.
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Charles Koch Foundation, Democracy Fund, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Laura and John Arnold Foundation, and Omidyar Network, announced that it will support a new research initiative to increase public understanding of Facebook’s role in elections and democracy.
In particular, the funders will support relevant research by an independent and diverse committee of scholars, whose expenses will be paid for by the funding consortium. Facebook will grant these scholars access to proprietary data that has met the company’s new, heightened security around user privacy. The committee will define research topics and invite the broader scholarly community to submit research proposals related to social media, elections and democracy, which will also be paid for by the funding consortium to ensure researchers’ independence.
The agreement by Facebook, the nation’s most widely used social media platform, to share this data in a manner that balances individual privacy protection with broader public interest is a significant step forward in helping technology leaders, civil society groups, academics, journalists and policymakers to understand and improve the role of social media in democracy.
Read the full article about the funders supporting research on Facebook’s role in democracy at the Hewlett Foundation.
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