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Facebook Announces $2 Million in Funding for Research Into Misinformation and Polarization Online

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With Facebook’s enhanced election security rules already being tested just weeks into the official US Presidential campaign, The Social Network has this week announced a new funding initiative for research into a key area of concern in its political integrity process.

Via a new “2020 Foundational Integrity Research” project, Facebook is offering $2 million “in unrestricted gifts” to support independent research into misinformation and polarization, and how it’s distributed through social communication technologies.

As explained by Facebook:

“We will provide a total of $2,000,000 in funding for research proposals that aim to enrich our understanding of challenges related to misinformation, polarization, information quality, and conflict on social media and social technology platforms. Our goal for these awards is to support the growth of the scientific community in these spaces and to contribute to a shared understanding across the broader industry on how social technology companies can better address social issues on their platforms.”

Facebook’s program will aim to fund studies that highlight more effective ways to identify misinformation campaigns and their impacts, while it’s also looking to get a better understanding of how such campaigns are being used in different regions.

In particular, Facebook notes that it will focus on projects which emphasize:

“Comparative research and inclusion of non-Western regions that have experienced a growth in social media platform use, including South and Central America, Sub-Saharan and North Africa, the Middle East, and Central, South, and Southeast Asia. We encourage proposals from researchers, or collaborations with researchers, based in the country/countries being researched.”

This may help to provide more insight into the varying tactics used in each market, while it could also be used to help Facebook stay ahead of coming threats in emerging markets, where misinformation has not yet become as big of a concern as it has in more established regions.

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Facebook says that it will not provide data for this research, and that any data collected by research teams must comply with Facebook’s terms and policies. Facebook also specifies that the research is not restricted to focusing on Facebook apps and technology, specifically.

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“Award amounts will range from $50K to $150K. Most projects will be between $50K to $100K, with up to five awards of $150K.”

It’s difficult to know exactly how significant the impact of online misinformation and polarization is, and has been, with respect to various elections and shifts. Definitely, political division has increased in the age of social media, but the full cause and effect of such is challenging to diagnose because there aren’t always direct links between what a person sees online and how they then respond.

Some within Facebook have played down the impact of misinformation. Just recently, Facebook’s former mobile ads chief Andrew Bosworth noted that, in his opinion, most of the misinformation efforts during the 2016 US Presidential Election campaign came from people “with no political interest whatsoever” who were simply seeking to drive traffic to “ad-laden websites by creating fake headlines, and did so to make money”. Misinformation from candidates, Bosworth says, was not a significant factor, based on Facebook’s internal assessment.

And while we do know that Russian-based groups have attempted to influence public opinion in several nations, with a view to impacting their respective polls, Facebook has also played down the impacts of those efforts in a broader sense. But again, it’s impossible to know, definitively, what factors lead people to voting one way or another.

What we do know is that people are now more overt in their political leanings, which is likely due to their capacity to share more of their personal thoughts online, while we also know that an increasing amount of people now use social media – specifically Facebook – to get news content.

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In this respect, it’s important, that we have some understanding of if and how fake news is having an impact in this chain, and how it can be addressed.

This new project should go some way towards providing more insight.

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You can read more about Facebook’s new research grants here.

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FACEBOOK

Facebook fighting against disinformation: Launch new options

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Meta, the parent company of Facebook, has dismantled new malicious networks that used vaccine debates to harass professionals or sow division in some countries, a sign that disinformation about the pandemic, spread for political ends, is on the wane not.

“They insulted doctors, journalists and elected officials, calling them supporters of the Nazis because they were promoting vaccines against the Covid, ensuring that compulsory vaccination would lead to a dictatorship of health,” explained Mike Dvilyanski, director investigations into emerging threats, at a press conference on Wednesday.

He was referring to a network linked to an anti-vaccination movement called “V_V”, which the Californian group accuses of having carried out a campaign of intimidation and mass harassment in Italy and France, against health figures, media and politics.

The authors of this operation coordinated in particular via the Telegram messaging system, where the volunteers had access to lists of people to target and to “training” to avoid automatic detection by Facebook.

Their tactics included leaving comments under victims’ messages rather than posting content, and using slightly changed spellings like “vaxcinati” instead of “vaccinati”, meaning “people vaccinated” in Italian.

The social media giant said it was difficult to assess the reach and impact of the campaign, which took place across different platforms.

This is a “psychological war” against people in favor of vaccines, according to Graphika, a company specializing in the analysis of social networks, which published Wednesday a report on the movement “V_V”, whose name comes from the Italian verb “vivere” (“to live”).

“We have observed what appears to be a sprawling populist movement that combines existing conspiratorial theories with anti-authoritarian narratives, and a torrent of health disinformation,” experts detail.

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They estimate that “V_V” brings together some 20,000 supporters, some of whom have taken part in acts of vandalism against hospitals and operations to interfere with vaccinations, by making medical appointments without honoring them, for example.

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Change on Facebook

Facebook announces news that will facilitate your sales and purchases on the social network.

Mark Zuckerberg, the boss of Facebook, announced that the parent company would now be called Meta, to better represent all of its activities, from social networks to virtual reality, but the names of the different services will remain unchanged. A month later, Meta is already announcing news for the social network.

The first is the launch of online stores in Facebook groups. A “Shop” tab will appear and will allow members to buy products directly through the group in question.

Other features have been communicated with the aim of facilitating e-commerce within the social network, such as the display of recommendations and a better mention of products or even Live Shopping. At this time, no date has been announced regarding the launch of these new options.

In the light of recent features, the company wants to know the feedback from its users through the survey same like what Tesco doing to get its customers feedback via Tesco Views Survey. However, the company is still about this feedback will announce sooner than later in this regard.

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