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Facebook provides data to academic researchers to determine social media influence during elections

Ever since the emergence of social media, political activities have never been the same. It has completely changed how political communications take place and especially during elections. Political components such as politicians, political parties or foundations can use social media platforms like Facebook to communicate with voters during elections. Individuals are also able to voice their political opinions and connect to an extensive network of like-minded participants in the electoral process and together engage in a wide variety of conversations that greatly influence the progress of politics.

Social media is significantly changing the nature of politics as there are tools that can be used to inform or mobilize participants in an electoral process. Citizens can connect to politicians as well as campaign managers and engage themselves in political activities, and this has a significant influence on election campaigns since these social media platforms can be used to manipulate or sway elections differently.

After claims that social media platforms were used by foreign influences to sway political campaigns especially the 2016 U.S Presidential election and Britain’s Brexit vote, Facebook announced that it would provide its data and resources to academics studying the impact of social media on political elections.

Facebook also announced that 60 researchers from 30 academic institutions all over 11 countries had been carefully selected by the Social Science Research Council as well as the Independent Social Science One group and these researchers aim to investigate the alleged claims and provide a strong hypothesis that will be used to solve the issue. The researches selected will find ways to try and prevent the manipulation of social media platforms such as Facebook to sway elections in the state.

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Can the research be trusted?

As a guarantee for independence of the researchers in investigating the alleged claims Facebook executives have assured the public that the social media platform had no involvement in the selection of the individuals nor their assigned projects and will also take no part in directing the results of the research. The executives stated that the role of the investigations should be used to educate the public on the real purpose of social media while allowing Facebook to progress further.

The researchers have also been enabled full and free access to Facebook data through newly developed data sharing infrastructure while protecting and maintaining the privacy of the users of the platform. Researchers may only be allowed access through a secure portal to prevent any private information of the customers from leaking out. The researchers will be provided with the necessary resources to motivate them to move swiftly and in the end aid social media networks better their security.

Final thoughts

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Social media does have a great influence on the lives revolving around a political era. However, once that power grows out of hand, these platforms can seriously be used to influence the normality of an election, and this can, in turn, lead to political irregularities. Every social media platform, therefore, must ensure that they work together in building a stronger and much more secure line to which users can positively connect and engage with each other during political activities while preventing foreign influences from taking advantage of such political processes.

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