Facebook is threatening academics doing a study on political advertisements breaking its rules, claiming ……… wait for it ……… that allowing users to voluntarily report what ads that they see is a violation of user privacy.
This is truly beyond satire:
Facebook has ordered the end to an academic monitoring project that has repeatedly exposed failures by the internet giant to clearly label political advertising on its platform.
The social media goliath informed New York University (NYU) that research by its Tandon School of Engineering’s Online Transparency Project’s Ad Observatory violates Facebook’s terms of service on bulk data collection and demanded it end the program immediately.
“We launched the Online Transparency Project two years ago to make it easier to see who was purchasing political ads on Facebook,” said co-founder Laura Edelson, of the project.
Facebook didn’t like this one bit, and responded with a warning letter on October 16, the Wall Street Journal first reported. The Silicon Valley titan wants the academic project shut down and all data deleted by November 30.
“We understand the intent behind your tool. However, the browser plugin scrapes information in violation of our terms, which are designed to protect people’s privacy.”
It seems the researchers aren’t backing down. On October 22, they published the latest research showing 12 political ads that had slipped under the radar as non-political on Facebook, some of which are still running.
Rather than rely on Facebook’s carefully controlled library, the NYU researchers built their own external approach and quickly discovered widespread disclosure violations which it says have helped facilitate the spread of election disinformation.
This is not about protecting user privacy, since, after all the users in this case know what they are doing, this is about their concerns that their fraudulent behavior will be identified and traced.