Cracking open Facebook

By | December 16, 2016

Screenshot of Facebook page with hand icon.

Facebook, with 1.79 billion monthly active users, has emerged as the main engine for “fake news.” Researchers say they’d like to help Facebook get to grips with its problem. But if you want to work with Facebook’s data, you usually have to become a contractor, work at its campus in Menlo Park, and agree to the company’s terms on what information can be published. For many academics, whose lifeblood is the freedom to publish, that isn’t an acceptable deal. But some of Facebook’s academic collaborators have sympathy with the company’s caution about what gets published. “They care very much about user privacy and user trust in the system,” Clifford Lampe, an associate professor at the School of Information, told BuzzFeed News. Lampe has collaborated with several tech firms and argued that Facebook is easier to work with than most. “Comparatively, I think they do a very good job of putting their research out to the public,” he said.