Facebook's Research Commission Launched To Help Safeguard Elections

A day ahead of Mark Zuckerberg’s first scheduled appearance before Congress, Facebook is unveiling an independent election research commission to explore the company’s impact on political elections and democracy as a whole.

“The goal is both to get the ideas of leading academics on how to address these issues, as well as to hold us accountable for making sure we protect the integrity of these elections on Facebook,” Zuckerberg explains in a new post.

As part of the effort, Facebook plans to form a committee of academic experts who will be responsible for thinking up research topics. Through a peer-review process, they will the select independent researchers to tackle these topics.

“We’ll give those researchers access to our resources, so they can draw unbiased conclusions about Facebook's role in elections, including how we’re handling the risks on our platform and what steps we need to take before future elections,” according to Zuckerberg.



The findings will then be shared publicly. Facebook insists that it will have no say in the approval process.

Several benefactors have agreed to fund the research, including the John and Laura Arnold Foundation, the Democracy Fund and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

Facebook is building an internal team to work with the commission and academic researchers to develop the approved datasets.

With an added focus on security, the company promises the datasets will be kept exclusively on its own global network of secure servers and subject to continuous audit. 

Zuckerberg on Monday once again apologized for not being more mindful of Facebook’s ability to shape elections around the world. “Looking back, it's clear we were too slow identifying election interference in 2016, and we need to do better in future elections,” he said.

No doubt, Zuckerberg will be questioned about Facebook’s slow response when he goes before Congress this week. 

On Tuesday, he is expected to appear before a joint hearing of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees, while he is scheduled to appear before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday.

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