Researchers leading a study of Facebook's impact on the 2020 election are delaying the release of their study results until the first half of 2022, Protocol has learned. Facebook and the researchers had said last year that the results of the study would be ready by the summer of 2021.
"We started this project with clear parameters of what we would be looking at and how to approach it. However, the events of January 6 marked a seminal opportunity to look at the effects of social media on political behavior," Joshua Tucker, co-director of NYU's Social Media and Political Participation lab and one of the leaders of the Facebook study, told Protocol in a statement. "Accordingly, we extended our data collection phase and added a sixth wave of research to the study to better understand people's beliefs and opinions around events including the presidential transition, the violence at the Capitol on January 6, and the Inauguration."
Tucker said both the analysis and the process of preparing the data have "taken longer than anticipated due to both the size of the project and our commitment to sharing peer-reviewed findings."
When Facebook announced its decision to suspend then-President Donald Trump from its core social network and Instagram for two years, the company also said it would give the election researchers access to data extending through February of this year. "Those researchers will gain access to this data and be able to make assessments about people's beliefs and opinions about January 6, the inauguration, etc.," Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone told Protocol at the time.
The election research project, which includes 17 academics from a range of institutions, initially set out to study Facebook's impact on political polarization, voter participation, trust in democracy and the spread of misinformation. Representatives for Facebook did not immediately respond to Protocol's request for comment on the delay.