Cybersecurity & Tech Democracy & Elections

The Lawfare Podcast: What Impact did Facebook Have on the 2020 Elections?

Quinta Jurecic, Alan Z. Rozenshtein, Talia Stroud, Joshua A. Tucker, Jen Patja
Monday, September 11, 2023, 8:00 AM
How much influence do social media platforms have on American politics and society? 

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With

How much influence do social media platforms have on American politics and society? It’s a tough question for researchers to answer—not just because it’s so big, but also because platforms rarely if ever provide all the data that would be needed to address the problem. 

A new batch of papers released in the journals Science and Nature marks the latest attempt to tackle this question, with access to data provided by Facebook’s parent company Meta. The 2020 Facebook & Instagram Research Election Study, a partnership between Meta researchers and outside academics, studied the platforms’ impact on the 2020 election—and uncovered some nuanced findings, suggesting that these impacts might be less than you’d expect.

Today on Arbiters of Truth, our series on the information ecosystem, Lawfare Senior Editors Alan Rozenshtein and Quinta Jurecic are joined by the project’s co-leaders, Talia Stroud of the University of Texas at Austin and Joshua A. Tucker of NYU. They discussed their findings, what it was like to work with Meta, and whether or not this is a model for independent academic research on platforms going forward.

(If you’re interested in more on the project, you can find links to the papers and an overview of the findings here, and an FAQ, provided by Tucker and Stroud, here.) 

Quinta Jurecic is a fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution and a senior editor at Lawfare. She previously served as Lawfare's managing editor and as an editorial writer for the Washington Post.
Alan Z. Rozenshtein is an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Minnesota Law School, a senior editor at Lawfare, and a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Previously, he served as an Attorney Advisor with the Office of Law and Policy in the National Security Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and a Special Assistant United States Attorney in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Maryland.
Natalie (Talia) Jomini Stroud (Ph.D., Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania) is a Professor in the Department of Communication Studies and the School of Journalism, as well as the founding and current Director of the Center for Media Engagement in the Moody College of Communication at The University of Texas at Austin.
Joshua A. Tucker is Professor of Politics, affiliated Professor of Russian and Slavic Studies, and affiliated Professor of Data Science at New York University, and Co-Director of NYU’s Center for Social Media and Politics (CSMaP)
Jen Patja is the editor and producer of The Lawfare Podcast and Rational Security. She currently serves as the Co-Executive Director of Virginia Civics, a nonprofit organization that empowers the next generation of leaders in Virginia by promoting constitutional literacy, critical thinking, and civic engagement. She is the former Deputy Director of the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier and has been a freelance editor for over 20 years.

Subscribe to Lawfare