Bias? What Bias?

Scientists Warn About Bias In The Facebook And Twitter Data Used In Millions Of Studies by Brid-Aine Parnell.

From the post:

Social media like Facebook and Twitter are far too biased to be used blindly by social science researchers, two computer scientists have warned.

Writing in today’s issue of Science, Carnegie Mellon’s Juergen Pfeffer and McGill’s Derek Ruths have warned that scientists are treating the wealth of data gathered by social networks as a goldmine of what people are thinking – but frequently they aren’t correcting for inherent biases in the dataset.

If folks didn’t already know that scientists were turning to social media for easy access to the pat statistics on thousands of people, they found out about it when Facebook allowed researchers to adjust users’ news feeds to manipulate their emotions.

Both Facebook and Twitter are such rich sources for heart pounding headlines that I’m shocked, shocked that anyone would suggest there is bias in the data! 😉

Not surprisingly, people participate in social media for reasons entirely of their own and quite unrelated to the interests or needs of researchers. Particular types of social media attract different demographics than other types. I’m not sure how you could “correct” for those biases, unless you wanted to collect better data for yourself.

Not that there are any bias free data sets but some are so obvious that it hardly warrants mentioning. Except that institutions like the Brookings Institute bump and grind on Twitter data until they can prove the significance of terrorist social media. Brookings knows better but terrorism is a popular topic.

Not to make data carry all the blame, the test most often applied to data is:

Will this data produce a result that merits more funding and/or will please my supervisor?

I first saw this in a tweet by Persontyle.

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