The Challenges and Opportunities for Social Media Research

Concluding Chapter of Social Media and Democracy: The State of the Field and Prospects for Reform (Cambridge Press, forthcoming September 2020)

Nathaniel Persily and Joshua A. Tucker

To some extent, it has been the best of times and the worst of times when it comes to social media research. As the first half of this book reveals, we are beginning to gain important insights into the dynamics of the communication revolution underway. However, despite these achievements and the widely recognized importance of this research, unique constraints have hindered the necessary concerted academic effort to answer the most important empirical questions. The key social media datasets to answer these important questions are not as readily available as were politically relevant datasets of years past. Moreover, unique legal barriers prevent analysis of such data, and related ethical and privacy concerns have arisen that have chilled academic inquiry...

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