In a recent article, Wired outlines how Facebook is attempting to shut down an academic study of political ad targeting as it prepares to re-enable targeted political ads.
In a recent article from Wired titled “Facebook Is Going After Its Critics in the Name of Privacy,” Wired outlines how Facebook is attempting to shut down an academic study focusing on political ad targeting as Facebook prepares to re-enable its targeted political ads. Facebook disabled its political ads ahead of the U.S. Presidential election in an attempt to slow the spread of misinformation.
Breitbart News previously reported on the academic study being performed by New York Univesity’s Tandon School of Engineering using a browser plug-in called Ad Observer. Wired explains the current situation that the study is facing, writing:
Enter Ad Observer and the Ad Observatory, a project of NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering. Ad Observer is a browser plug-in that Facebook users voluntarily install. The plug-in scrapes (makes a copy of) every ad that a user sees and sends it to Ad Observatory, a public database of Facebook ads that scholars and accountability journalists mine to analyze what’s really happening on the platform. Time and again, they’ve discovered gross failures in Facebook’s ability to enforce its own policies and live up to its promises.
Facebook has threatened legal action against the Ad Observatory team, claiming that the Ad Observer plug-in violates its terms of service. They want it removed by the Monday after Thanksgiving, or else. In other words, Facebook wants independent, third-party scrutiny of its ad policy enforcement to end at the very moment that its enforcement failures are allowing false claims about the outcome of the 2020 election to spread, challenging the legitimacy of American democracy itself. This deadline also roughly coincides with Facebook’s reinstatement of political advertising. In other words, the company is opening the door to far more paid political disinformation at the very same moment that it is shutting out independent watchdogs who monitor this stuff.
The company swears this action is not driven by a desire to silence its critics. Rather, it says it is acting on its well-known commitment to preserving its users’ privacy.
Wired concludes its article by noting that Facebook has faced a number of privacy issues in recent years and consistently promised to clean up its act, but when held accountable by Ad Observatory Facebook immediately resorted to legal threats and a disinformation campaign.
Wired adds: “This may be par for the course with Facebook, but it’s not something we as a society can afford to tolerate any longer.”
Read more at Wired magazine here.