Data Access

Academic Research

  • Book

    Online Data and the Insurrection

    Media and January 6th, 2024

    View Book View abstract

    Online data is key to understanding the leadup to the January 6 insurrection, including how and why election fraud conspiracies spread online, how conspiracy groups organized online to participate in the insurrection, and other factors of online life that led to the insurrection. However, there are significant challenges in accessing data for this research. First, platforms restrict which researchers get access to data, as well as what researchers can do with the data they access. Second, this data is ephemeral; that is, once users or the platform remove the data, researchers can no longer access it. These factors affect what research questions can ever be asked and answered.

  • Journal Article

    Like-Minded Sources On Facebook Are Prevalent But Not Polarizing

    • Brendan Nyhan, 
    • Jaime Settle, 
    • Emily Thorson, 
    • Magdalena Wojcieszak
    • Pablo Barberá
    • Annie Y. Chen, 
    • Hunt Alcott, 
    • Taylor Brown, 
    • Adriana Crespo-Tenorio, 
    • Drew Dimmery, 
    • Deen Freelon, 
    • Matthew Gentzkow, 
    • Sandra González-Bailón
    • Andrew M. Guess
    • Edward Kennedy, 
    • Young Mie Kim, 
    • David Lazer, 
    • Neil Malhotra, 
    • Devra Moehler, 
    • Jennifer Pan, 
    • Daniel Robert Thomas, 
    • Rebekah Tromble, 
    • Carlos Velasco Rivera, 
    • Arjun Wilkins, 
    • Beixian Xiong, 
    • Chad Kiewiet De Jong, 
    • Annie Franco, 
    • Winter Mason, 
    • Natalie Jomini Stroud, 
    • Joshua A. Tucker

    Nature, 2023

    View Article View abstract

    Many critics raise concerns about the prevalence of ‘echo chambers’ on social media and their potential role in increasing political polarization. However, the lack of available data and the challenges of conducting large-scale field experiments have made it difficult to assess the scope of the problem1,2. Here we present data from 2020 for the entire population of active adult Facebook users in the USA showing that content from ‘like-minded’ sources constitutes the majority of what people see on the platform, although political information and news represent only a small fraction of these exposures. To evaluate a potential response to concerns about the effects of echo chambers, we conducted a multi-wave field experiment on Facebook among 23,377 users for whom we reduced exposure to content from like-minded sources during the 2020 US presidential election by about one-third. We found that the intervention increased their exposure to content from cross-cutting sources and decreased exposure to uncivil language, but had no measurable effects on eight preregistered attitudinal measures such as affective polarization, ideological extremity, candidate evaluations and belief in false claims. These precisely estimated results suggest that although exposure to content from like-minded sources on social media is common, reducing its prevalence during the 2020 US presidential election did not correspondingly reduce polarization in beliefs or attitudes.

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