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Apr 25, 2017 01:35 PM EDT

A study by a Virginia Tech College economics researcher found that social media giant Facebook has played an important role against government corruption. The platform's open sharing of information has helped countries where press freedom is banned.

The research has been published in the journal "Information Economics and Policy." Sudipta Sarangi, from the Virginia Tech Department of Economics, used cross-country analysis on data from over 150 countries.

The results demonstrated that the more people use Facebook, the more likely it is for government corruption to meet protest. Sarangi described the social media site as "peer of the press."

In a press release via Science Daily, he said that the study highlights the importance of freedom on the Internet that is being threatened in several countries globally. Social media was found to be negatively correlated with corruption regardless of the freedom of the press in a country.

The study examined a number of control variables such as other economic, democratic and cultural factors. Interestingly, this comes after the American election where Facebook and other social media sites were accused of playing a major role in the spread of "fake news" especially in terms of politics.

Sarangi started the study in 2012 while he was still at Louisiana State University with co-author Chandan Kumar Jha, who is now an assistant professor at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York. When they began the project, social media was still being used as a tool to organize anti-corruption protests in their home back in India.

Their study, which features a falsification test to check if the results would be true for a pre-Facebook era in the same nations, is the first to find evidence of a link between social media and corruption in over 150 countries. This demonstrates the role that social media plays along with the press in open countries as well as its greater impact in oppressive countries.

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