Researchers at The Ohio State University will be among the first to have access to privacy-protected Facebook data to study social media’s impact on democracy in the United States.
The research team, which also includes scholars from three other U.S. universities, will have unprecedented access to anonymous data from Facebook on the sharing of online content. The team will use these data to examine a variety of behaviors that may pose harmful influences on what people learn about science, politics and their community.
“We know that rumors and misinformation spread on social media platforms like Facebook can undermine citizens’ ability to make thoughtful decisions that affect their lives,” said Kelly Garrett, associate professor of communication at Ohio State and principal investigator of the project.
“But we can’t stem these problematic behaviors if we don’t understand them. That’s what this study is all about.”
Garrett said he hopes the results of the study will lead to ways to reduce the posting of fake news and other kinds of problematic sharing.
“We believe our findings could help system designers create early warning systems that predict when people are likely to share problematic posts,” he said.
“That could help Facebook design changes to help keep problematic sharing in check.”
Garrett’s colleagues on the study are Robert Bond, assistant professor of communication and political science at Ohio State; Jason Jones, assistant professor of sociology at Stony Brook University; Ceren Budak, assistant professor of information at the University of Michigan; and Drew Margolin, assistant professor of communication at Cornell University.