Facebook is urging researchers at New York University to shut down a study into targeted political advertisements on the platform. As one researcher put it, Facebook maintains a “walled garden” on advertising data.
According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, Facebook is trying to shut down a study being conducted at New York Univerisity on the way that political advertisements are distributed on the platform. 6,500 volunteers are monitoring the political advertisements that appear on their Facebook feed through a browser extension designed by NYU’s researchers.
Earlier this month, Facebook sent researchers at the NYU Ad Observatory a letter in which it claimed that the research project violates the platform’s terms of service.
“Scraping tools, no matter how well-intentioned, are not a permissible means of collecting information from us,” the letter reads. The letter went on to say that the researchers “may be subject to additional enforcement action” if they refuse to shut down their study.
Rebekah Tromble, the direction of the Institute for Data, Democracy, and Politics at George Washington University, defended the NYU study, arguing that Facebook needs to be more transparent about the way in which its various systems operate.
“There’s far too much critical information closed up behind Facebook’s walled garden,” Tromble said. “And efforts like the Ad Observatory play a critical role in breaking down those walls.”
Laura Edelson, a researcher at NYU that is working on the study, claims that their team has no plans to shut down the project. “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 not to do,” Edelson said.
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