Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

People are rightly sceptical about scientific discoveries made in secret or without scrutiny. And anyone claiming to have found a new planet with a toy telescope, would not be taken seriously. Recent leaks of internal Facebook research on the mental health of children and young people have caused a great stir on both sides of the Atlantic.

Phone screen with Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram apps visible

By Professor Andrew Pryzbylski, senior research fellow Oxford Internet Institute.

Many have claimed this research is damning, but to undertake proper science and research, you need proper researchers and scientists and access to accurate information. You could not have a better example, than the massive effort made during the pandemic.  Everyone may be an epidemiologist now but, happily, there have been real epidemiologists to do the hard science.

Sometimes it really is rocket science. And scholars need accurate data to find out what is happening and provide answers. That is why, today, a group of scientists and researchers from around the world have come together [in a letter] to ask one of the biggest companies in the world, Meta, which owns Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram, to let us do what we do best – carry out research.

This is no small issue. The stakes are really high. A lot is being said about a crisis in teenage mental health – with blame being placed squarely on social media companies. In a polarised world this is an easy, yet irresponsible, claim to level without data. Understandably, perhaps, these companies are very defensive and, in response to the criticism, they have said they will carry out their own research.

Read the full story on the University of Oxford website

Similar stories

Five ways the pandemic has affected routine medical care

Since the beginning of the pandemic, COVID has infected at least a third of the UK population and is estimated to have factored in the deaths of almost 200,000 people in the UK. But critically, COVID has also had a devastating impact on our healthcare systems. While this was expected, new evidence is beginning to reveal the scope of the issue – in particular the effects for people living with long-term health conditions.

Clinical trials for a malaria vaccine start in Mali and Indonesia

Sanaria Inc. announced that two new Phase 2 trials of its pioneering malaria vaccines have started. The first is in 6- to 10-year-old children living in Bancoumana, Mali, a malarious region of West Africa. The second is in Indonesian soldiers based in Sumatra, Indonesia. The soldiers will be deploying for six to nine months this coming August to an intensely malarious district in eastern Indonesia.

Mechanism of expanding bacteria revealed

A new study published in Nature has identified a potential Achilles heel in the protective layers surrounding Gram-negative bacteria that could aid in the development of next-generation antibiotics.

Oxford to receive £7 million to turn bright ideas into global opportunities

The University of Oxford has been awarded more than £7 million, the highest amount of funding given to organisations across the UK, in the latest round of UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Impact Acceleration Account (IAA) funding - aimed at fueling the best, brightest and most disruptive ideas from Uk research institutions.

Discovery of gene involved in chronic pain creates new treatment target

Oxford researchers have discovered a gene that regulates pain sensitisation by amplifying pain signals within the spinal cord, helping them to understand an important mechanism underlying chronic pain in humans and providing a new treatment target.

Oxford's largest ever study into Varicose veins shows need for surgery is linked to genetics

A new international study by Oxford researchers published in Nature Communications establishes for the first time, a critical genetic risk score to predict the likelihood of patients suffering with Varicose veins to require surgery, as well as pointing the way towards potential new therapies.