Last week Monday, Facebook announced it has partnered up with 17 external academic researchers to explore social media’s impact on “key political attitudes and behaviours” ahead of the 2020 US elections.
As part of the study, the company will offer to pay people to quit both Facebook and Instagram for a period of time. According to The Washington Post’s Elizabeth Dwoskin, the company will possibly pay users between $10 and $20 per week to stop using the app/s.
Dwoskin also shared screenshots of notifications already being sent to some Instagram users asking them how much they’d have to be compensated to deactivate their accounts, with the options of $10, $15, or $20 per week.
The study will examine the impact of how people interact with our products, including content shared in News Feed and across Instagram, and the role of features like content ranking systems.”
According to a tweet by FB spokesperson Liz Bourgeois, anyone who chooses to participate, by taking surveys, agreeing to target changes or deactivating FB/IG, will be compensated. But Facebook will not be paying its researchers behind the study.
The company has apparently taken several steps to ensure researchers can conduct their work independently. Facebook said it won’t restrict the questions researchers ask, or what they publish and will publish the study’s initial hypotheses once the findings are public.
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But Facebook and its researchers -some of whom are involved in the current study- have been criticized in the past for their reluctance to release information. In fact, the 2020 study is based on an initiative that began back in 2018 just after the Cambridge Analytica debacle.
That study aimed to share more information with academics but researchers grew frustrated with Facebook’s constant delays and reported that the company consistently provided them with less than what they had asked for, hindering their ability conduct a fair study.
The company expects between 200,000 and 400,000 users to participate in the 2020 study, which will run through December but results will only be available around mid-2021.
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