Facebook Inc. has apparently blocked the accounts of a team of researchers from the New York University (NYU) who were studying COVID disinformation/misinformation campaigns and political advertisements, over concerns of “unauthorized acccess.” Critics have been quick to point out that by doing so, the social media giant has essentially made it clear how it is trying to silence any research that paints it in a black light.
To Protect People’s Privacy
The research had begun back in 2020, through the NYU Ad Observatory, and had been directed towards collecting data pertaining to the political ads that are commonly seen on the social media platform. For the same, a browser extension tool had been put forward, which has been used by as many as 16,000, who have been accessing the same in order to share information about the types of ads targeted towards them by Facebook, and the reasons behind such a targeting, with the team. The personal accounts, pages, and even apps of the researchers have been blocked by the Mark Zuckerberg-led company in a bid to completely shut them out.
Following the news, the firm’s product management director Mike Clark has said that the decision to take the accounts down came only after repeated efforts on the social media giant’s part to get the research to be in line with the platform’s terms. He has added that the Facebook blocked the NYU team because they resorted to making use of “unauthorized means” to get their hands on the data they collected, which was a violation of the company’s Terms of Service, and so, it was only necessary that their access to the service blocked to “protect people’s privacy” by putting an end to the alleged unauthorized “scraping” of data.
NYU Researchers Beg To Differ
Clark further says that even though the intentions of the Ad Observatory project may have been well-placed, their methodologies were questionable, and continued to be in violation of “protections against scraping,” and could not have been ignored.
Meanwhile, the researchers have claimed that their means of collecting the data did not violate Facebook’s policies, and instead, were “pretty careful.” Laura Edelson, a member of the team at NYU, adds that while collecting information, the researchers specifically stick to public ads, and that too, in a careful manner. Nevertheless, she is one among many people whose accounts have been disabled in connection with the issue.