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Facebook bans academics who investigated the distribution of political ads – IT Pro – News

Facebook has banned the accounts of researchers investigating the spread of political ads on the platform. The company reported that the academics violated Facebook’s terms of use by scraping data.

Facebook groups Blog post That the academics have broken the rules of the platform with their research. The company said it has stripped “accounts, Facebook pages, and platform access” from researchers involved in New York University’s Ad Observatory project. This project uses a browser plug-in to investigate the spread of misinformation, because Facebook does not check whether political ads on the platform contain false information.

Academics have tried, among other things, to find out where such political ads come from and how they are targeted to users. Volunteers can install the plugin and it will automatically collect data about which political ads users see and why. In this way, the academics say they want to provide insight, among other things, into how disinformation spreads on Facebook. The results of the study will be announced in the site From the Advertising Observatory Project.

Facebook itself writes that the company banned the researchers after “repeated attempts to bring the NYU investigation into line with Facebook’s terms.” The company claims that researchers have violated the privacy of its users by scraping user data with the plugin. Facebook’s terms prohibit data scraping without permission. “Researchers have intentionally violated our terms against skimming, and we’ve gone to great lengths over the past year to explain this to them.”

The researchers collected data by creating a browser extension programmed to bypass our detection systems and scrape data such as usernames, ads, links to user profiles, and `why am I seeing this ad?` information. ”, some are not publicly available on Facebook. ,” writes one of the company’s employees.

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Researchers gather In their own words There is no personal data for volunteers who have installed the browser plug-in, such as usernames or friend lists of these users. Academics collect data on advertisers; Presumably, this is the stolen data Facebook is referring to in its statement.

An academic sign up Bloomberg The research group is not satisfied with Facebook’s approach. “Facebook silences us because our work often draws attention to issues on its platform,” said Laura Edelson, a doctoral student involved in research at New York University. “Facebook uses user privacy, a core belief we always put at the forefront of our business, as an excuse to do so.”

Facebook writes in its statement that it “takes unauthorized data scraping very seriously.” “Whenever we find cases of abrasion, we investigate and take action to protect our platform. The Ad Observatory project may be well-intentioned, but ongoing violations of abrasion protection measures cannot be ignored and must be addressed.” The company further says that researchers already presents the possibilities To conduct polls on Facebook, and that it will continue to do so.