Facebook suspended on Tuesday New York University research project’s accounts and prevented access to the social networking platform, successfully halting a study involving the platform’s target on political ads.
Damian Collins, a British Conservative Party politician, implicated that Facebook is halting research over the Ad Observer tool that could expose the platform’s hidden agenda concerning political ads.
Tech companies are being charged by some of the most influential countries concerning their platform’s policies, and Facebook is no stranger to the exposure.
This suspension came months after tech giants and NYU’s researchers have been challenging each other over the Ad Observer tool. This tool gives users the ability to willingly share basic incognito information about political ads displayed by Facebook to its userbase.
“The work our team does to make data about disinformation on Facebook transparent is vital to a healthy internet and a healthy democracy. Facebook is silencing us because our work often calls attention to problems on its platform,” said researcher Laura Edelson in a statement.
In an attempt to defend its stance, the social networking platform said that the move was made due to concerns researchers imposed on its privacy protection policies.
Meanwhile, the platform’s product management director Mike Clark addressed the issue on Facebook’s blog stating that research should not occur on the cost of people’s privacy, and that NYU’s researchers accounts were suspended due to their violation of the company’s terms of services.
“The researchers gathered data by creating a browser extension that was programmed to evade our detection systems and scrape data such as usernames, ads, links to user profiles, and ‘Why am I seeing this ad?’ information, some of which is not publicly viewed on Facebook,” Clark said his statement.
Following the researchers’ point of view, of which they were merely gathering data on advertisement, Facebook’s decision inflamed some political support against its choice.
Ron Wyden, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and Intelligence Committee addressed the platform’s actions as “deeply concerning.” He further implicated that Facebook is intensifying its pressure on researchers by resorting to their privacy terms as “an excuse to crack down on researchers exposing its problems.”
On top of that, the networking giant’s move was faced with more criticism by not only U.S. politicians, but also by the company behind famous browser, Mozilla Firefox.
Mozilla had already reviewed the researchers code in the Ad Observer extension, referring to is an ad collector, which targets parameters and metadata concerning the ads.
“It does not collect personal posts or information about your friends. And it does not compile a user profile on its servers,” Mozilla said in a statement.
While most parties are clearly against Facebook’s decision, the networking giant fortified its choice by referencing its policies to fight misleading information about COVID-19, the elections, and other matters concerning its userbase.
Despite so-called policy measures Facebook is taking, Democrats in Congress and the Biden administration are enforcing further scrutiny on platform to take further measures.