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Facebook brings down personal accounts of all those involved in NYU Ad Observatory team

Facebook has disabled the private accounts of researchers who were a part of the NYU Ad observatory team claiming that all of them in their research broke the platforms terms and policies which it has strictly enforced and hence should pay the consequences.

This brings us to the question what was the research team doing and on what made Facebook take such a huge step?

Well, the Ad observatory team was working on a project which helped them unleash what were the origins and spread of political ads on Facebook. The spread of political ad on Facebook is a rather sensitive topic, considering how people have different views on politics and how some posts can be used as a trigger or how politics can be used to brainwash so many people. However, apart from this, the team’s core target was to discover the political ads and on what basis were they being targeted to the users.

For this, they needed the user data. Though they could not obtain it directly as Facebook policies do not allow it, the research team created an Ad Observer which helped them in their task. The Ad Observer was a browser plug which helped the researchers find what political ads were circulating on the platform and how were they being targeted to a respective audience. The data which they then collected was also disturbed publicly for other third parties who used it for their own purposes.

This when came into Facebooks’ knowledge, the company took immediate action and brought down all the researchers personal accounts.

The banned researchers were when questioned about their thoughts on the matter said that from their point of view, Facebook’s decision was wrong. Why?

They believe that they are only exposing the problems that appear on Facebook about which the public deserves to know and Facebook is hindering their work and silencing them. According to them, Facebook itself does not fact check the political ads on its platform due to which the misinformation can easily be spread and though the tech giant does share some of its data and how it runs the activities on the platform, it does not share all of it and political ads is something among this.

The research team said that they were not collecting any personal data on the users like their user name, ID or friend list and was also not storing the obtained information on the uses.

However, Facebook does not tolerate any behavior which goes against its policies.

What do you think, was the decision take by Facebook correct or what the NYU team doing was fine?


Photo: Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

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