Facebook Executives Tried To Silence Researchers “Poking Around” Platform

(PatriotWise.com)- Last week Facebook suspended the accounts of researchers from New York University who had been conducting research into political ads and the spread of misinformation on the social media giant’s platform.

Facebook claimed they did so because of issues the researchers posed over privacy protection. However, the researchers, Laura Edelson and Damon McCoy, slammed Facebook, accusing them of attempting to silence them and other researchers who use the tool they developed to assess the spread of disinformation.

Edelson claimed in a statement that Facebook silenced them for exposing the problems on its platform, adding that Facebook should not have “veto power” over who is permitted to study the platform.

The suspension came after months of fights between Facebook and the researchers over the Ad Observer tool the NYU researchers developed. That Ad Observer tool allows Facebook users to voluntarily share limited anonymous information about the political ads that pop up on their newsfeed. This allows researchers and journalists to follow political advertising trends on Facebook.

Just two weeks before the 2020 election, Facebook sent the researchers a cease-and-desist letter demanding they discontinue Ad Observer and take down the results they had compiled thus far.

But Facebook did no follow-up on their cease-and-desist order until last week when Edelson informed the platform that she and Damon McCoy were studying the spread of information related to the January 6 melee at the Capitol.

According to Matt Stoller, research director at the American Economic Liberties Project, Facebook suspending these researchers on claims of “privacy” was a “cynical pretext” done entirely to stop the researchers from “poking around.”

In an interview on Hill.TV’s “Rising,” Stoller disputed the comparison between the NYU researchers and the now-defunct consulting firm Cambridge Analytica that collected Facebook users’ data without consent for the purposes of political advertising.

Unlike Cambridge Analytica, the researcher’s Ad Observer let users share information voluntarily. Moreover the researchers were open and transparent with users on what their goals were.

Stoller told “Rising” host Kim Iverson that Facebook “just doesn’t want them poking around in how they actually run their business.”

Watch the segment HERE.