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A Dream Come True: Facebook Will Pay Some Users to Deactivate Their Accounts Ahead of the Election

In a 2018 protest of misinformation on Facebook, 100 cardboard cutouts of Mark Zuckerberg were placed in front of the US Capitol Building.

Good news for anyone who’s been wanting to get off Facebook but has been having trouble cutting that cord: the social media platform will be paying some users to deactivate their Facebook and Instagram accounts ahead of the November election.

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Washington Post correspondent Elizabeth Dwoskin posted a screenshot on Twitter of a survey asking Facebook users how much they’d need to be paid to deactivate for either one week or six weeks.

Facebook’s strategic response communications director, Liz Bourgeois, responded to that tweet with a link to more information about the research initiative, which is looking to explore the impact social media has on democracy.

Here’s the basic breakdown of what participants would be doing:

For people who have explicitly opted in to the study, we plan to combine multiple research methods, including surveys and behavioral data analysis, along with targeted changes to some participants’ experiences with Facebook and Instagram. For example, participants could see more or fewer ads in specific categories such as retail, entertainment or politics, or see more or fewer posts in News Feed related to specific topics. Other participants may be asked to stop using Facebook or Instagram for a period of time. A subset of participants may be asked to install an app on their devices – with their permission – that will log other digital media that they consume. This will allow researchers to understand more comprehensively the information environment that people experience.

It’s common knowledge by now that disinformation shared on Facebook had a massive impact on the 2016 presidential election. Facebook can’t take all of the blame, but the site is certainly a major factor in our growing, now-chasmic political divide. It was and still is wholly unprepared to handle what a gigantic role it plays in our political landscape. Facebook is still struggling to figure out how to host political content, and I mean really struggling. Blatant lies, including those coming from Trump’s own account, go un-fact-checked. Fringe radical groups are allowed to use the site to call for violence, which Mark Zuckerberg dismisses as a mere “operational mistake.” It’s a mess.

This new initiative is looking at how users interact with political material on the platform, and it will be interesting to see what they find, but I don’t think I’m alone in thinking the most appealing part of the study is that control group that gets to opt out of the process entirely.

(via NY Post, image: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.

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