Is Politico gaining much insight with Facebook data?

Politico | techPresident | ReadWriteWeb
Based on data provided exclusively by Facebook through a new partnership, Politico reports that attacks on Mitt Romney’s time with Bain Capital “may be affecting his standing, at least among Facebook users. Since his New Hampshire primary win, the proportion of negative comments about him on Facebook has steadily increased, more so than at any time over the past month, according to the Facebook data.”

But several researchers question the value of doing “sentiment analysis” on Facebook postings, noting that the science is young and it’s hard to discern what people mean in quick, casual postings often infused with irony:

Here’s the issue: Counting the number of times a candidate’s name is mentioned on social media and noting what words appear alongside those mentions can illuminate broad trends. You can report that “more people talked about Candidate X today” and “Y percent of that group used word ZZZZ in their comment.” But you can’t make any kind of meaningful judgment about what those people intended by that usage without asking them.

Politico notes below Monday’s story, “No employees at Facebook or POLITICO read the posts and all measures are aggregated by candidate and by day.”

TechPresident’s Micah Sifry criticizes the media’s uncritical reliance on information from social media and technology companies:

After years of scorning the Web, now some [news outlets] are rushing in the opposite direction, chumming up with companies they should be reporting critically on, and claiming to find meaning in things that are nowhere as clear as they seem.

ReadWriteWeb’s Marshall Kirkpatrick instead sees the potential in mining Facebook data:

The move is being widely condemned in the press as a violation of privacy but if Facebook would do this right, it could be a huge win for everyone. Facebook could be the biggest, most dynamic census of human opinion and interaction in history.

Related: Politico expands print distribution to Manhattan

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