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Facebook pokes holes in Princeton research with parody

The social network uses a questionable methodology to come to the shocking conclusion that Princeton will be dead by 2021.

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The Facebook icon flag at the social network's Menlo Park, Calif., campus. Facebook

Pot, meet kettle.

With the comeback of all comebacks, Facebook researchers published a disconcerting discovery: Based on Google Trends, enrollment at Princeton University will be sliced in half by 2018. By 2021, the Ivy League school will have no students at all.

"Based on our robust scientific analysis, future generations will only be able to imagine this now-rubble institution that once walked this earth," reads a note published Thursday by Facebook data scientists Mike Develin, Lada Adamic, and Sean Taylor.

The alarmist finding is, of course, as unscientific as they come, and Facebook knows that. The mock study, however, serves as the company's witty response to a widely circulated Princeton research paper that used a similar methodology to conclude that Facebook will lose 80 percent of its users by 2017.

The social network could have just come out and said that the conclusion was based on bad science, but would you believe the company? Probably not, especially when the narrative that Facebook is dead and buried is far more entertaining. Instead, Facebook does a better job discrediting the paper with a joke of a report that uses the "same robust methodology" as that used by the Princeton researchers.

Whether the joke is on Facebook remains to be seen -- teens are taking off for other networks -- but it's refreshing to see the company take a playful jab at one of its critics.