Facebook ban on third-party researchers ‘worries’

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Politicians and scholars appreciate Facebook for that denying accounts researchers who analyze political ads and misinformation on a social network.

In press releases, Senator Mark R. Warner (D-VA) said the company’s actions were “extremely worrying”, while Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) said he was “deeply concerned” about the news. Firilla, the creator of the Firefox browser, which conducted a privacy review of the researchers ’work, said Facebook’s reasoning for banning the researchers was“ false ”.

“Facebook claims the accounts were closed due to Ad Observer’s privacy concerns,” wrote Marshall Erwin, Mozilla’s security manager. blog post. “We think these claims simply don’t hold water.”

Researchers banned by Facebook worked NYU Ad Observatory, creating a browser extension called Ad Tracker that Facebook users can install to collect information about what political ads were shown to them and how they were targeted. Facebook does not provide similar information, says the NYU Ad Observatory, not least because, as researchers have shown, the company sometimes does not constitute political advertisements at all.

Facebook has defended the ban on NYU Ad Observatory accounts and sites, saying it protects users ’privacy. That’s not an unreasonable argument, given that the Cambridge Analytica scandal arose from third-party researchers who would swipe user data from the site. But critics say Facebook has misunderstood the details. Mozilla, which examined the code and consent stream for the Ad Observer plug-in, is convinced that it does not pose a privacy protection.

Like Mozilla’s Marshall Erwin wrote in a blog post (highlight her):

We decided to recommend Ad Observer because our reviews assured us that it respects users ’privacy and supports transparency. It collects ads, targeting parameters, and ad-related metadata. It does not collect personal messages or information about your friends. And it does not compile a user profile for its servers. You can also use the plug-in to see what information has been collected by visiting the My Archive tab. It allows you to choose to share additional population information to make it easier to research how specific groups are targeted, but that too is disabled by default.

As in the Casey Newton report Platforming newsletter, Facebook claims that the extension may collect information from third parties. For example, “If a person pays to enhance a message, such as fundraising, the information, including the user’s name and photo, ends up in the hands of NYU researchers.” But as Newton states, “In all these cases, the real disadvantage to the user would seem to be very a minor, if it can be called a nuisance at all. ”

Senator Warner said in a statement that Facebook’s actions were exactly the wrong response to current concerns about the transparency of political advertising and misleading information on its platform.

“This latest Facebook action to block outside group transparency – efforts that have repeatedly facilitated the disclosure of ads that violate Facebook’s Terms of Use, fraud and fraudulent funding arrangements, and political ads that were wrongly left out of Facebook’s poor ad library – is worrying,” Warner said. For years, he has called on social media platforms like Facebook to work with and empower independent researchers, and they are constantly working to improve the integrity and security of social media platforms by exposing harmful and exploitative activities.

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