The Hewlett Foundation provided this statement regarding the wind down of a project launched with a diverse group of charitable funders to support independent academic analysis of privacy-protected data on Facebook’s role in elections and democracy.
We are pleased that Facebook has made accessible another previously unavailable dataset to researchers who are studying the platform’s impact on elections and democracy. Our understanding, at this time, is that technical and legal complexities have hindered access to the breadth and depth of data that funders, independent researchers and Facebook’s own researchers originally hoped that independent researchers would be able to examine. We are working with our partners to assess next steps for this project, determine which of the originally approved research proposals can be accomplished, and ensure we act as responsible charitable donors to the scholarly community.
We knew this would be a challenging effort when we began, and we continue to believe that the health of our democracy demands that we make the effort. This is a step in the right direction but we still have a long way to go before the public has credible, trustworthy answers to the hardest questions about social media’s role in digital disinformation. We remain committed to supporting independent scholarship that increases public understanding of these critical issues and allows society to create and sustain a healthy, well-informed democracy.