Facebook to pay some users to deactivate their accounts ahead of 2020 election

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As part of the attempt to better recognize the effect of Facebook and Instagram on culture during the 2020 election, Facebook will pay certain users to deactivate their accounts for a time span.

The social media giant unveiled a new collaboration with 17 academic researchers on Aug. 31 to study the impact its social media networks played during elections “on core political perceptions and behaviors.”

“We need more impartial, dispassionate, empirically-based analysis to continue amplifying all that is positive for society on social media, and mitigating against what is not,” Facebook said in a blog post.

“We need to understand more whether social media makes us more divided as a society, or whether it simply represents the differences that still exist; whether it helps us become more educated about politics, or less; or whether it influences attitudes towards government and democracy, including when and how they vote,” the statement said.

Facebook said U.S. citizens’ “representative, experimental studies” will be chosen to opt-in to the analysis, and certain prospective participants will see a Facebook or Instagram message asking them to join. Researchers can use various methodologies on Facebook and Instagram including polls and tailored improvements to the perspectives of some people.

Any participants “can be requested for a period of time to avoid using either Facebook or Instagram,” the firm added.

Screenshots posted by Elizabeth Dwoskin, a Washington Post reporter, show an Instagram message telling users to pick how much they would like to be paid to deactivate their account. Facebook offers the $10, $15, and $20 a week plans.

“The account will be deactivated for either 1 week or 6 weeks in late September. You must be prepared to deactivate your account for all periods of time to not use Instagram during that time to join. When the research begins you can find out during the amount of time you have been picked to deactivate your account, “reads the post.

Liz Bourgeois, the head of strategic response communications for Facebook, announced on Twitter that it would pay the participants.

“Whoever wishes to opt-in–whether to complete surveys or deactivate FB or IG for a period of time –will be paid for that. That’s fairly standard for this kind of academic research, “wrote Bourgeois.

Facebook said other participants will be invited, with their consent, to install an app on their smartphones that will monitor all digital media they are watching.

Facebook said that the analysis would start “fast” and finish in December, but the results were not anticipated until mid-2021 at least.

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