Facebook is ‘not a researchers-friendly space’ say academics encountering roadblocks to analyzing its 2020 election ad data

Digiday 04 May 2021 04:01
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May 4, 2021 by Kate Kaye

Facebook is providing academic researchers with a massive data haul revealing how political ads during last year’s U.S. elections were targeted to people on the platform. However, researchers have been held up by an arduous process to access the data and worry the information is insufficient to provide meaningful analysis of how Facebook’s ad platform was used —and potentially misused — leading up to the election.

“You need to see what’s going on in order to know how to regulate something,” said Orestis Papakyriakopoulos, a Ph.D. at Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy, an interdisciplinary center for research to help inform government policy addressing how digital technologies affect society. Papakyriakopoulos said he has applied to access the new Facebook 2020 political ad data, made available in February, but has yet to receive it.

Facebook has offered the data detailing 1.65 million ads related to political, electoral and social issues served on the site between August 3, 2020, and Nov. 3, the day of the U.S. presidential election, to approved academic researchers through its Facebook Open Research and Transparency platform, or FORT.

‘Not planning on applying

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