S3MC member Ceren Budak, assistant professor in the School of Information at the University of Michigan, and colleagues from Ohio State, Cornell and Stony Brook are inaugural recipients of the Social Media and Democracy Research Grants, the first opportunity for systematic scholarly access to privacy-protected Facebook data to study the platform’s impact on democracy worldwide. The project is one of 12 inaugural recipients of the Social Media and Democracy Research grants from the Social Science Research Council and its partner, Social Science One. The research team 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 potentially harmful behaviors that may influence how people learn about science, politics and their community. What follows is the abstract of the intended research, found here:

“In an information environment where sharing decisions influence how billions of people around the world learn about science, politics, and their community, it is crucial that we understand how these decisions are made. Of particular concern are what we term “problematic sharing behaviors,” including sharing dubious news and falsehoods. We will pair Facebook data with time series data describing high-profile events and documented changes to the Facebook platform. We aim to produce two types of explanations of sharing behavior. The first will focus on temporal patterns. For example, it is likely that the proportion of “problematic” sharing will vary by day, month, or season. The second type of explanation concerns the influence that important social events and technological changes have on problematic sharing. High-profile crises, from natural disasters to acts of mass violence, are likely to lead to some forms of problematic sharing, while changes to Facebook are intended to constrain it.”