Culture

Facebook will pay you to log off so it can study its role in elections

You'll have to wait until mid-2021 to find out the results.

Facebook's friendship, message, and post features can be seen in white. The background is Facebook blue, deeper than the regular shade. Each feature depicts a zero in a red bubble, indicating inactivity.
Shutterstock

In the middle of trying to curb coordinated manipulation tactics, Facebook is taking a more academic route to understand its sociological impact on elections. The company recently announced a research initiative that would involve independent analysts who are expected to help the company "better understand the impact of Facebook and Instagram on key political attitudes and behaviors during the US 2020 elections." Part of it, it turns out, will come to asking people to log off and get paid (a little bit) for it.

On Thursday, The Washington Post's Silicon Valley correspondent Elizabeth Dwoskin tweeted images of Facebook testing the waters. In a screenshot Instagram survey, which Facebook owns, the company states that it would like to understand just how much the individual participant would want in order to log out for a week. It's for research purposes only at the moment.

Curiously, the payment options are fairly low coming from a digital giant that enjoyed 15.6 percent increase shares in August. For one week, one option entails being paid $10 to $60. For another rate, the option is being $15 to $90 and the third rate says that it would involve being given $20 to $120.

What you should know — "To participate, you must be willing to deactivate your account for [either 1 week or 6 weeks] and not use Instagram during this time," the company explains. "When the study starts, you'll find out which time period you've been selected to deactivate your account for."

Additionally, according to the company, "Regardless of the amount of time you deactivate, you will have the opportunity to take a survey immediately after the November 3 election and be paid for doing so." Those asked to participate will have to deactivate their account through the election.

Will this work? — For the meme-aware crowd, this entire research project might remind them of the "buy my silence for $8,000" meme. The hilarious offer pitched to Patreon became a popular joke for the extremely online crowd.

Memes aside, it would be premature to predict the efficiency of this study. But based on the current payment rate — which is bound to be ridiculed for how paltry it is — it seems like this project could be easily manipulated by people and groups who use multiple accounts, thus impairing its accuracy and purpose. It could become a quick way to make some pocket money, forget understanding election integrity.