Facebook is Paying People to Stop Using it and Instagram Until the U.S. Election

Facebook is Paying People to Stop Using it and Instagram Until the U.S. Election
A giant digital sign is seen at Facebook's corporate headquarters campus in Menlo Park, California. (Photo: Josh Edelson, Getty Images)

Facebook is always experimenting and studying the effects of its platforms on its 3 billion users. And that could be the reason why the company is reportedly planning on paying its users to stop using its products.

What is Facebook paying some of its users to do?

Late last week, Washington Post reporter Elizabeth Dwoskin tweeted screenshots of an Instagram notification polling users about a plan to pay them to stay off the tech company’s platforms.

The notification outline that accounts would either be suspended for either one or six weeks. And the prompt asks users to select how much they would accept, up to $US20 a week.

“So Facebook is now going to pay people to deactivate their IG and FB accounts before Election Day. It’s part of the research experiment announced Monday but WOW,” Dwoskin tweeted.

Facebook spokesperson Liz Bourgeois confirmed the offer, tweeting “this is fairly standard for this type of academic research.”

Why is Facebook paying users to stay off its platforms?

Earlier in the week, Facebook said it was partnering with 17 external academics to study the impact of the company on the 2020 US elections.

“It will examine the impact of how people interact with our products, including content shared in News Feed and across Instagram, and the role of features like content ranking systems,” said the company’s VP of Global Affairs and Communications Nick Clegg and its Head of Open Research and Transparency Chaya Nayak in a blog post.

As part of the study, US adults can volunteer to take part of the study, and the company is expecting between 200,000 and 400,000 will take part.

But to understand the effect on Facebook users, researchers need something to compare to. Which is why Facebook is, perhaps counterintuitively, paying users to stop using their services, according to some.

Stanford University adjunct professor and Facebook former chief security officer Alex Stamos suggested that the company was trying to find a control group for their experiments.

Meanwhile, other social media users greeted the news with enthusiasm about being paid not to use Facebook.

“How do I get on this? And can I do it on multiple accounts? :-),” one Twitter user posted.