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Data sets key to understanding online posts

Publish date: 16 May 2018
Issue Number: 1732
Diary: Legalbrief eLaw
Category: Internet

A team of four Swedish and Polish researchers in 2014 began using an automated program to better understand what people posted on Facebook. The program, known as a ‘scraper’, let the researchers log every comment and interaction from 160 public Facebook pages for nearly two years. By May 2016, they had amassed enough information to track how 368m Facebook members behaved on the social network. It is one of the largest known sets of user data ever assembled from Facebook. ‘We’re concerned about how easy it was to collect this,’ said Fredrik Erlandsson, one of the researchers and a lecturer at the Blekinge Institute of Technology in Sweden. The New York Times reviewed six Facebook data sets compiled by academics from 2006 to 2017. One, gathered from 2015 to 2017 by researchers in Denmark and New Zealand, examined 1.3m people in Denmark to determine how liking one political page on Facebook could predict how someone would vote in the future. Another set, from 2013, by a group of Norwegian academics focused on the civic engagement of 21m Facebook members on four continents.

Full report in The New York Times