Facebook disabled accounts of researchers looking into political ad practices

 

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A Bloomberg report detailed how Facebook disabled the accounts of a group of New York researchers studying political ads on the social network.

Facebook claims the researchers were scraping data from the network in violation of its terms of service.

The NYU Ad Observatory project asks Facebook users to download a browser extension that collects data on what political ads the users see on the network, and how those ads were targeted.

Facebook had sent the researchers a cease-and-desist letter last fall demanding that they stop collecting targeting data about political ads, and threatening “additional enforcement action.”

Count Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) among those upset with Facebook for blocking an outside transparency effort.

“This latest action by Facebook to cut off an outside group’s transparency efforts – efforts that have repeatedly facilitated revelations of ads violating Facebook’s Terms of Service, ads for frauds and predatory financial schemes, and political ads that were improperly omitted from Facebook’s lackluster Ad Library – is deeply concerning,” Warner said.

“For several years now, I have called on social media platforms like Facebook to work with, and better empower, independent researchers, whose efforts consistently improve the integrity and safety of social media platforms by exposing harmful and exploitative activity. Instead, Facebook has seemingly done the opposite. It’s past time for Congress to act to bring greater transparency to the shadowy world of online advertising, which continues to be a major vector for fraud and misconduct,” Warner said.


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