US – The Social Science Research Council (SSRC) and Social Science One have announced the inaugural recipients who will gain access to privacy-protected Facebook data to assess the impact of social media on democracy.

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Over 60 researchers have been chosen to receive the Social Media and Democracy Research Grants, which will offer scholarly access to privacy-protected Facebook data.

The winners include research projects from Northeastern University, Technical University of Munich, University of Amsterdam and New York University.

The recipients were chosen through a peer review process organised by the SSRC and Facebook said it played no part in selecting the researchers.

The researchers will use access to Facebook data to understand how political news is shared, how social events or changes to technology platforms affect behaviour such as spreading disinformation, and assess how social media platforms impacted elections in Italy, Chile, and Germany.

According to the SSRC, they will also look to ‘provide a richer understanding of the relationship between social media platforms like Facebook and traditional news media’ and how to distinguish between legitimate and fake news sources.

In a blog post by Elliot Schrage, vice-president for special projects and Chaya Nayak, strategic initiatives manager at Facebook, the company said: “We hope this initiative will deepen public understanding of the role social media has on elections and democracy and help Facebook and other companies improve their products and practices ... this initiative will deepen our work with universities around the world as we continue to improve our ability to address current threats and anticipate new ones.”