• September 19, 2021

Exclusive: Facebook Admits It Sent Misinformation Researchers Flawed Data

 Exclusive: Facebook Admits It Sent Misinformation Researchers Flawed Data

“Facebook provided a data set to a consortium of social scientists last year that had serious errors,” reports the Washington Post, “affecting the findings in an unknown number of academic papers, the company acknowledged Friday.”

The company used a regular monthly call on Friday with roughly three dozen researchers affiliated with Social Science One, a consortium founded in 2018 that Facebook hails as a model for collaboration with academics, to admit the error and apologize for the impact on their work. The data concerns the effect of social media on elections and democracy and includes what web addresses Facebook users click on, along with other information. The error resulted from Facebook accidentally excluding data from U.S. users who had no detectable political leanings — a group that amounted to roughly half of all of Facebook’s users in the United States. Data from users in other countries was not affected…

Gary King, a Harvard professor who co-chairs Social Science One… said dozens of papers from researchers affiliated with Social Science One had relied on the data since Facebook shared the flawed set in February 2020, but he said the impact could be determined only after Facebook provided corrected data that could be reanalyzed. He said some of the errors may cause little or no problems, but others could be serious. Social Science One shared the flawed data with at least 110 researchers, King said. The group’s former co-chairman, Stanford Law professor Nathaniel Persily, said of the incident: “This is a friggin’ outrage and a fundamental breach of promises Facebook made to the research community. It also demonstrates why we need government regulation to force social media companies to develop secure data sharing programs with outside independent researchers.”

An Italian researcher, Fabio Giglietto, discovered data anomalies last month and brought them to Facebook’s attention. The company contacted researchers in recent days with news that they had failed to include roughly half of its U.S. users — a group that likely is less politically polarized than Facebook’s overall user base. The New York Times first reported Facebook’s error…

The anonymized data set is one of the largest in social science history, with 42 trillion numbers.
One Social Science One researcher told the New York Times this discovery “undermines trust researchers may have in Facebook

“A lot of concern was initially voiced about whether we should trust that Facebook was giving Social Science One researchers good data. Now we know that we shouldn’t have trusted Facebook so much and should have demanded more effort to show validity in the data.”

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Reporters Team

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