Facebook admits it messed up again

Facebook admits it messed up again
Facebook Chairman and CEO Zuckerberg testifies at a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington Reuters
  • Facebook apologized Friday for sending data with a "major flaw" to researchers, NYT reported.
  • Over the past three years, dozens of reports used the data to study misinformation on the platform.
  • "Now we know that we shouldn't have trusted Facebook so much," one researcher told the Times.

Facebook accidentally sent flawed data to misinformation researchers, The New York Times reported Friday.

Instead of being inclusive of all site users, the data set used to study how false information spreads on the network only measured interactions by politically engaged accounts. This captures an estimated 50% of Facebook users, according to the Times.

A Facebook spokesperson told Insider that the mistake was rooted in a technical issue, "which we proactively told impacted partners about and are working swiftly to resolve."

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The data was first shared with researchers over three years ago after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified to Congress about the Cambridge Analytica data leak and foreign election interference on the platform.

Amid growing scrutiny, Facebook launched a partnership with a group of academics known as Social Science One to independently study the spread of misinformation on the site.


Since then, nearly 50 researchers have used the faulty data set to study user interactions on the platform. According to internal emails and interviews reviewed by the Times, those studies and dozens of doctoral candidacies are now at risk.

"Now we know that we shouldn't have trusted Facebook so much and should have demanded more effort to show validity in the data," Cody Buntain, a social media researcher and professor from the New Jersey Institute of Technology, told the Times.

Facebook apologized for the error and said that it is working to correct the data set's issues. However, the company said that it would take weeks to completely correct the mistake, according to emails reviewed by the Times.

A recent peer-reviewed study suggests misinformation on Facebook gets six times more engagement than factual posts, Insider's Isobel Asher Hamilton reported last week.

"Engagement should also not be confused with how many people actually see it on Facebook," a company spokesperson told Insider in response to the study. "When you look at the content that gets the most reach across Facebook, it is not at all like what this study suggests, as shown in our widely-viewed content report and in studies of the Social Science One condor data set."