Today, we at the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), with our partner Social Science One, are delighted to announce the inaugural recipients of the Social Media and Democracy Research Grants, the first opportunity for systematic scholarly access to privacy-protected Facebook data to study the platform’s impact on democracy worldwide.

For 96 years, the SSRC has been committed to mobilizing knowledge for the public good. To this end, the Social Media and Democracy Research Grants program is guided by the belief that open, just, and democratic societies need an understanding of their own complex social, cultural, economic, and political processes—many of which are now online. Today’s announcement marks a significant step toward creating the kinds of international social science research pathways necessary for sustained investigations into the effects of social media on all of our lives.

The grant projects we announce today hint at the global potential of the Social Media and Democracy Research Grants competition. These grantees will seek to use access to Facebook data to better explain how political news is shared in European multiparty political systems; to understand how social events or technology platform changes influence communication behaviors such as spreading disinformation; and to deepen our knowledge of how social media platforms were used in elections in Italy, Chile, and Germany and how their use may influence public opinion in Taiwan. The projects also seek to provide a richer understanding of the relationship between social media platforms like Facebook and traditional news media, and how we as a society can better distinguish legitimate news sources from unverified ones.

Moving forward, the grantees join the SSRC’s extensive network of fellows and grantees. In addition to the pragmatic steps of providing research funding and creating pathways for public reporting, the SSRC—in collaboration with our partners—will provide grantees support through research and training workshops and access to relevant scholarly communities that can advance more robust, nuanced, and interdisciplinary research. Strengthening dialogue and linking research to practice and policy remain core commitments in all SSRC programs.

Social Media and Democracy Research Grant grantees were selected from around the world based on their qualifications, research questions and methods, and commitment to accountability, transparency, and excellence. An international body of peer reviewers selected proposals submitted prior to November 9, 2018, and without input from Facebook.

For the latest on the status of the data, please see the announcement posts from Facebook and Social Science One.

This project is generously supported by a coalition of charitable foundations including the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, the Democracy Fund, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Charles Koch Foundation, Omidyar Network, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

More information on the peer review processes and ethical protections behind this project can be found on the SSRC project page.

Social Media and Democracy Research Grants Competition – Cohort I