EDMO training series for researchers: empirical research on online disinformation and current toolkits for accessing platform data
As the European policy response to disinformation has increasingly recognized the fundamental role to be played by independent scientific research in the field, with the push towards transparency in regulatory instruments comes an increased opportunity for independent research to take on the role of fostering accountability and public scrutiny. The EDMO training series aims to support researchers to be able to fulfil this role, by facilitating a number of sessions with invited speakers from the platforms to present currently available resources and datasets for researchers.
Empirical research on online disinformation on social media platforms poses a number of challenges for researchers, ranging from the complexities of using large-scale data collection and applied machine learning, to the thorny question of access to platform data. As noted in EDMO’s recent report “Concerns about the spread of mis- and disinformation, political polarization, discriminatory advertising, among many others, require greater scrutiny by independent researchers who, in turn, communicate their findings to the public and policymakers. But without greater access to platform data, in many instances, such scrutiny remains difficult, if not impossible”. Leaving aside questions linked to personal data and the ensuing ethical and privacy concerns, the EDMO training series aims to guide researchers in accessing currently available non-personal data and anonymised, aggregated, or manifestly-made public platform data for research purposes.
In the absence of regulatory requirements imposing a common approach, digital platforms have been free to develop their own policies and technical mechanisms for researcher access to the data they hold. In the 2022 Strengthened Code of Practice on Online Disinformation many online platforms explicitly committed to provide access, wherever safe and practicable, to “continuous, real-time or near real-time, searchable stable access to non-personal data and anonymised, aggregated, or manifestly-made public data for research purposes on Disinformation through automated means such as APIs or other open and accessible technical solutions allowing the analysis of said data.” Signatories are expected to report on their commitments under the code within seven months of signature.
In the meantime given urgency of the problem of online disinformation, and the need to better understand its impact on society and current events, EDMO aims to support researchers navigate this landscape and equip them to be aware and make use of the current platform offer of data and be prepared for upcoming developments in the field.
Format and frequency
The training series will consist of periodic online training sessions of 90 minutes each, in which different online platforms representatives will present their currently available and forthcoming products and datasets. Follow up sessions may be envisaged on specific features or products.
The training series is open to research organisations conducting independent research in the public interest. Applications will be accepted on a first come first served basis while ensuring a balanced representation across gender, nationality, and institutional lines.
The first session of EDMO’s training series on conducting empirical research on online disinformation will provide an introduction to the Academic & Research Partnerships team at Meta and focus on Meta’s datasets and products to support independent academic research.
Length: 90 Mins
Overview of Academic & Research Partnerships team and their role in supporting independent researchers in studying
Meta’s impact on society
Overview of current datasets and products to support independent academic research
Forthcoming products for independent researchers
Opportunity for discussion
Applications for session 1 are now closed
The training session is open to research organisations interested in conducting independent research on Meta’s impact on society. Applications will be accepted on a first come first served basis while ensuring a balanced representation across gender, nationality, and institutional lines.