Ethos

This project consists of free software technology, designed to address many issues in the domain of algorithm accountability and social media impact.

We can not try to confront Facebook in a closed model. We can not be centralized, otherwise we are just a different Facebook.

Because fbTREX's assets are unique, rather than offering a product with finite limitations, fbTREX aims to enable anyone aligned with our mission to reuse the data we have gathered through collective observation.

We don't want to sell the access to our data, we want to exist in the public interest. fbTREX should be seen as an infrastructure to facilitate the analysis of Facebook data by the target user groups, rather than a specific product based on top of scraped data.

Diversity ensures validity in testing. Diversity of users means a more varying observation of social media. Algorithms are affecting all kinds of people, from widely different locations, with different languages, cultures, and politics. It's important to understand how algorithms affect these very different groups of people, who make up the global community of social network users.

want to develop a reproducible method to measure the diversity of the debate observed and value our growing with such a metric; this is more important for us than the raw number of users.

V. Components

The fundamental component is a tool which makes a copy of your timeline and later on compares it with people you know. This process of copying and comparing is the primary method needed to figure out how individual social media experiences show us different realities.

Browser extension - makes a copy of your data and submits it to the system through a server. We have a feasibility study for mobile in progress.

The browser extension performs a copy of the HTML section and our technology in the backend extracts metadata out.

within every HTML post we have (6 million in total) is all the information that has been selected for you by Facebook.. This is the best evidence for us and through this block of HTML text, metadata are extracted by our parsers.

The parsers are small self-contained programs which analyze the data provided by the users and extract metadata from them. The metadata are the assets on top of which we can build our analysis and, the more parsers we have, the more metadata we can derive from the users' contribution.

Post type Sponsored or NewsFeed? The sponsored posts are the paid content Facebook uses to make money from advertising. They represent 10%-15% of the whole timeline. The algorithm impacts the NewsFeed.
Text The statements shared by the author, or the preview text from a shared link.
Media type This is the knowledge of the media type, it can take three values at the moment (post, video, image)
Number of comments, likes, shares Metrics declared by Facebook.
Links included If one or more clickable links are shared, we have this as separate metadata. (Most of the news agencies only publish links, and then via open graph Facebook retireve a description and a picture).
Post Id Is an unique identifier from Facebook, from which it is possible to find the original post.
Publication time The date and time that the post has been published by the author.
Author The name of the publisher.

There are some metadata which are not extracted but attributed, such as language, and semantic analysis made with our partner Spaziodati. This uses Wikipedia as a semantic engine. It extracts only elements with a page in Wikipedia. To permit third-parties to collaborate, the communication with our infrastructure shall be regulated by documented interfaces (API). As of July 2018, more than 2000 people installed the tool despite our limited communication efforts. We didn't aim in the first phase to reach any large amount of users, because offering a proper UX is a hard task, and in the first phase of the project, getting some academic endorsement has helped provide credibility and solidity to the long term plan.

VI. Similar Projects

Each one of these points requires a separated description, but in summary:

(1) Visualizing the Information Diet: As a first step, fbTREX's browser plugin will provide users with the ability to visualize the selection of what is being presented to them. This function will be improved over the grant period to evolve from simple analysis towards mining for more complex, semantic information. A key feature of this tool is that it allows users to obtain data on their Information Diet and to experiment with the parameters in order to better understand how Facebook's algorithm works.

(1.1) Let users customize their visualisations. A visualization implies values, priorities and perspectives. We should let users experiment and share their way.

(1.2) Let users customize their algorithm. This is the most complex functionality, but it represents one of our end goals.

(2) Comparing the Information Diet: fbTREX will provide users with tools for comparing their timelines to that of others, based on mutual agreement. The goal is to involve and compare a diverse group of users across the globe.

(2.1) Advocate for this UX adoption, observe and verify if it can be used to address misinformation and/or missing other people's viewpoints.

(3) Enabling third-party researchers: The data mined by fbTREX will be anonymized and provided to selected third-party researchers, either individuals or collectives such as OpenHumans. They will be enabled to contextualize the findings, combine it with other data and complement it with social science research results. In order to protect user data, it is crucial for fbTREX to build trusted relationships and networks with researchers.

(3.1) Develop a framework for ethical data-reuse, use this process to promote literacy on algorithm transparency and accountability. Display the potential of a dataset collected in the public interest, which allows people to understand phenomena but protects individuals.

VIII. ACHIEVEMENTS & REFERENCES

2018

2017