Facebook is Demanding An Investigation into Political Ads to Stop

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Facebook is at odds with New York University over a research project into political advertising on the tech giant’s platforms.


Facebook is demanding that NYU Ad Observatory stop collecting data. That project has deployed more than 6,500 volunteers and a browser extension to collect data about the political ads that Facebook displays.

According to the tech company, the university must request permission to collect that data. It has sent a letter to the researchers at the NYU Ad Observatory saying the project is violating the usage rules of its platforms by collecting data in bulk from the site. In the letter, Facebook threatens to take further action if the university does not stop.

Advertisements on social media, and especially the political variant, are kept under close scrutiny in the period before the presidential elections in the US.

Four years ago, Russia and other foreign powers would have used advertisements, among other things, to try to influence the elections in the country, for example, by spreading disinformation.

To get rid of that criticism this year, Facebook has put online an archive of advertisements running on the platform, including information about the clients and location of people who saw the advertisement. However, it doesn’t say who those ads are targeting, and NYU Ad Observatory now wants to find out.

Facebook has previously blocked research initiatives into political advertisements, including one from the VRT. According to the tech giant, those projects pose a threat to privacy.

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