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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

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