10/31/2014 01:40 pm ET Updated Oct 31, 2014

Facebook Will Share Users' Political Leanings With ABC News, BuzzFeed


Facebook has begun digging through its users' public posts for insight into their political views and will give the findings to ABC News and BuzzFeed to help their coverage of the 2016 presidential election.

The company confirmed the partnership with the two news organizations in an email to The Huffington Post on Friday. As part of the experiment, Facebook will categorize status updates about politicians and policy issues by adult Facebook users in the U.S. as positive, negative or neutral. The data will guide ABC and BuzzFeed's reporting on the political leanings of certain demographics.

Facebook's data will first be used by ABC News during its midterm election coverage next week, specifically discussing 2016 presidential candidates and issues. BuzzFeed News will use the data regularly for political analysis.
The partnership was first reported by Politico.

A Facebook spokesperson told HuffPost that the company will look only at public status updates and not pull data from private messages or replies to other users' posts. The company also stressed that it will anonymize the aggregated data reports before they hand them over to ABC and BuzzFeed.

Those promises might ring hollow with Facebook users: A recent survey of 4,000 Americans found that 82.9 percent of the respondents did not trust Facebook with their personal information.

That sentiment almost certainly has something to do with Facebook's long history of keeping tabs on users. The company analyzes users' browsing history and sells that data to third-party companies for targeted advertising. Facebook has also shared with an outside firm data on how its users discuss TV shows.

Politics is a new, if perhaps inevitable, avenue for Facebook data-mining. A recent Pew study found that 48 percent of Americans read political news on Facebook.