How Accurate are Facebook Fact Checkers?

Facebook admitted that data it shared with researchers in February 2020 was severely flawed. The result discredited any study relating to so-called “misinformation,” alleged radicalization or political polarization that used the Facebook information. 

The New York Times reported that Facebook’s effort to be more forthcoming with user behavior data it provided to researchers was flawed. Facebook admitted that it failed to include approximately half of the U.S. user data in its data set in a call with Social Science One, a group of researchers organized to work with Facebook on using its data for new research projects. Worse, according to The Times, people on the call claimed that Facebook representatives “said that they still did not know whether other aspects of the data set were affected.”

However, it was not just a random half of data that was missing. The missing data appears to have been for users who were apolitical or neutral. That means the result was skewed toward more politicized answers.

According to The Times, Facebook admitted the half that was provided was for U.S. users “who engaged with political pages enough to make their political leanings clear.” 

Studies that used the flawed data to evaluate how many users were being radicalized or polarized by so-called political misinformation then, in all likelihood, came up with faulty conclusions.

The data was provided to “at least 110 researchers,” and was used in “dozens of papers,” according to The Times. It is unclear which or how many papers used the flawed data. A complete list of all papers that used the data would help minimize skepticism of research in the affected subjects. Research papers typically cite multiple other research papers. So, the list would need to include any papers that cited the ones that used the flawed data as well. 

The data was provided to “at least 110 researchers,” and was used in “dozens of papers,” according to The Times. It is unclear which or how many papers used the flawed data. A complete list of all papers that used the data would help minimize skepticism of research in the affected subjects. Research papers typically cite multiple other research papers. So, the list would need to include any papers that cited the ones that used the flawed data as well.

Written by Heather Moon.

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