Facebook announced this week that it will now make it easier for researchers to study fringe and non-mainstream groups on its platform. This new policy will allow “qualified” researchers to study public-facing pages, groups and events in the United States, including specific posts from users. However, Facebook says it will hide their user names in order to protect their privacy.
The social media giant has been heavily criticized over the past year for allowing fringe groups like QAnon and “Stop the Steal” to flourish on its platform, so it makes sense that the company would want to take a closer look at what makes these groups tick.
“It was specifically designed for researchers,” Chaya Nayak, Facebook’s head of Open Research and Transparency, told Engadget. “The Researcher API will include US public page, events, and group data on Facebook, regardless of follower count. This is important because it will enable the study of fringe and non-mainstream movements as they evolve, rather than only once they become prominent on the platform.”
Of course, Facebook could criticized for possibly infringing on the privacy of these groups and users. However, when it comes to stopping the spread of dangerous content, the tradeoff might be worth it.
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