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Facebook Misinformation Causes issues with researchers.


Mark Zuckerberg Facebook Cartoon

Facebook in Trouble?

It seems as though there is never a day or week that goes by where Facebook is not in the media. The social media giant has a global reach with billions of users around the world but a lot of what is shared across the platform is untrue and inaccurate. You only have to look at the issue around the Covid-19 vaccine and false information being shared to understand how influential misinformation can be. Therefore, it’s especially important for Misinformation Researchers to have the data they need. If Facebook wants to continue to be the technology of the future then it’s especially important to operate with transparency because technology applications have to do everything possible to prove their integrity.

However, the latest problem comes in the form of providing flawed and incomplete data to Misinformation Researchers while examining how users interact with posts and links on the platform. Irrespective of what the company told the researchers, the data that was provided by Facebook did not contain all of the expected information and it therefore only contained information for around 50% of its users in the US and not all of them. 

It has been reported that members of Facebook’s Open Research and Transparency team took part in a call with the researchers on Friday to clear the air and apologise for the mistake that they made. Some of the researchers believed that the error was in fact intentional in a bid to sabotage the research. 

A researcher at Italy’s University of Urbino was the first to discover the incorrect data. They compared the data with a report that Facebook had released to the public in August to the data that it had given to the researchers. The two data sets simply didn’t match up, causing the researchers to look for a reason as to why this was the case. 

Facebook failed to provide an immediate response when pressed for a comment although they have since claimed that it was caused by a technical error. They also claim that they also told those who were impacted by the error and that they are doing everything possible to seek out a solution to their error. 

The report, which comes from the 18th August and was used by the University of Urbino to compare, was then released as a way of being transparent. The business Insider article revealing it, showed the most-viewed content in Facebook’s public News Feed between April and June of this year. However, it was then discovered that Facebook had withheld a report that looked at its first quarter which did nothing to help the company and eventually, Facebook were forced to release the report. 

Also, back in August, Facebook banned academic researchers from New York’s Ad Observatory platform from using their platform. This came after the group’s AdObserver browser plug-in identified issues. It discovered that Facebook had not disclosed information relating to who had covered the costs of political ads on its site. 

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