Facebook is hoping to squash the work of a New York University research project that has collected data about its political ad-targeting practices.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Facebook’s latest row is with the NYU Ad Observatory, a project started last month to collect information on the types of political ads Americans see on the site.
The project reportedly has more than 6,500 volunteers who use a uniquely designed browser extension to monitor the political ads they’re shown.
NYU Ad Observatory, a research project at New York University, has collected data on more than 200,000 political ads on Facebook
In the October 16 letter, obtained by WSJ, it asserts that the NYU Ad Observatory violates certain parts of its Terms of Service, which banned bulk data collection from the site.
If NYU doesn’t halt operations and delete the information, Hendrix wrote, they ‘ may be subject to additional enforcement action.’
Researchers with the program have attempted to fill in a transparency gap left open by Facebook, which released an archive of all political ads run on the platform following the 2016 election.
After President Trump’s win, politicians and civilians alike blasted the social media giant over its advertising policies, which were criticized as vague and ambiguous.
The Cambridge Analytica scandal, which saw 87million users’ information used for political profiling, forced Facebook to re-evaluate its third-party data access policies.
It prompted Facebook to restrict how third parties gain, review and use data collected from the platform.
The archive unearthed several revelations, including information on who paid for it, the geographic area of people who saw it and when it ran.
But it did not divulge how and who was being targeted.
Facebook sent a letter to New York University asking that the project cease operations and delete the collected data
WSJ reports that NYU Ad Observatory hoped to create a tool that could search political ads by states to determine targeted audiences and the funding behind those ads.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota told the publication that Facebook’s attempt to shut down the project was ‘unacceptable.’
‘It’s unacceptable that in the middle of an election, Facebook is making it harder for Americans to get information about online political ads,’ she told WSJ.
Social media companies have overhauled their commitment to advertisement transparency, so this step taken by Facebook against NYU is ‘further evidence that voluntary standards are insufficient,’ she said.
Klobuchar, who sat in on the 2018 Facebook hearings, sponsored a bill called Honest Ads Act that would require more transparency in online political advertising.
Facebook announced in September that they would halt political ads ahead of the November election. In October, the company added that it would bar all political and social-issue ads indefinitely on Election Day.
Facebook announced in September that they would halt political ads ahead of the November election. Pictured: President Donald Trump (left) and Democratic nominee Joe Biden (right)
Laura Edelson: ‘The only thing that would prompt us to stop doing this would be if Facebook would do it themselves, which we have called on them to do’
In a statement to WSJ, Facebook said that any action taken against NYU wouldn’t happen until after the election.
‘We informed NYU months ago that moving forward with a project to scrape people’s Facebook information would violate our terms,’ a spokesperson said.
They added that should NYU Ad Observatory continue operations, Facebook could make technical changes that blocked the group’s efforts.
The project has already amassed information on more than 200,000 ads. NYU Ad Observatory claimed it’s already shows areas where Facebook’s archive fell short.
It remains to be seen how the data squabble will play out, but researcher Laura Edelson suggested the project would stay on track.
‘The only thing that would prompt us to stop doing this would be if Facebook would do it themselves, which we have called on them to do,’ she told WSJ.
Facebook CEO Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Dorsey to appear voluntarily before US Senate Judiciary Committee after both social networks blocked story about Joe Biden’s son
The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee said on Friday the chief executives of Twitter and Facebook will testify before the panel on November 17 over their decision to block stories that made claims about Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son.
The Judiciary committee voted on Thursday to subpoena the two CEOs.
The executives will testify on allegations of anti-conservative bias, the committee said.
The companies have come under heavy criticism from conservatives over their decision to flag two New York Post stories as spreading disinformation.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey will testify before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee next month
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will also be appearing voluntarily, though the committee
The companies have come under heavy criticism from conservatives over their decision to flag the Post stories as spreading disinformation and censor the story
The CEOs of Facebook, Twitter and Alphabet Inc will also testify before the Senate Commerce Committee on October 28 about a key law protecting internet companies.
Republican President Donald Trump and many Republican lawmakers have continued to criticize tech companies for allegedly stifling conservative voices.
Both hearings are aimed at discussing the issue.
The hearings come just over a week after Dorsey apologized after Twitter blocked a story about Joe Biden and his dealings in Ukraine leading to accusations of censorship and election interference.
Many say it demonstrates big tech’s bias towards the left, given the fact that many anti-Trump stories have been posted and shared online without intervention despite denials from the President or conservatives over the years.
Dorsey tweeted that his company’s actions had been ‘unacceptable’ and explained there had been a lack of communication surrounding Twitter’s decision which was ‘unacceptable’ but that he stood by the decision to block it.
‘Our communication around our actions on the NYPost article was not great. And blocking URL sharing via tweet or DM with zero context as to why we’re blocking: unacceptable,’ he said.
He then linked to a statement from the company that said it was restricting the link because ‘personal and private information’ had been shared in the story.
Hunter and Joe Biden. The Post story suggests that Joe, while VP, had a meeting with a Ukrainian businessman after being introduced to him by Hunter, eight months before pressuring Ukrainian officials to fire a prosecutor who was investigating the businessman
The Post story says that the former Vice President met with Ukrainian businessman Vadym Pozharskyi, as associate of his son Hunter, months before Biden would pressure Ukrainian officials to fire a prosecutor who was investigating Pozharskyi’s firm.
Twitter claimed that they placed the restrictions on the articles as they contained personal information such as phone numbers, as well as information that had been hacked.
‘The images contained in the articles include personal and private information — like email addresses and phone numbers — which violate our rules,’ the company stated.
‘We also currently view materials included in the articles as violations of our Hacked Materials Policy.
‘Commentary on or discussion about hacked materials, such as articles that cover them but do not include or link to the materials themselves, aren’t a violation of this policy.
‘Our policy only covers links to or images of hacked material themselves,’ it concluded.
Facebook and Twitter were accused of ‘election interference’ for throttling the article.
Facebook claimed it needed to be independently verified by fact-checkers before it could be shared on their platforms.
The social network decided to ‘reduce distribution’ of the article until it has been verified by its own, third-party ‘fact checkers’.
In an editorial, the New York Post also refuted the hacking claims, stating that the original story explains where the material came from.
‘Our story explains where the info came from, and a Senate committee now confirms it also received the files from the same source,’ it hit back.