FB tells NYU to halt project that collects political ad data


Facebook has asked New York University to stop collecting data for a research project that aims to decipher political ad targeting on its platform.

According to a Wall Street Journal report, Facebook claimed that the Ad Observatory which is a project at the university’s engineering school “scrapes data from political ads shown on Facebook”.

The social networking giant said the project is violating its terms of service.

The NYU Ad Observatory has recruited more than 6,500 volunteers to use a “specially-designed browser extension to collect data about the political ads Facebook shows them”.

Facebook said that “scraping tools, no matter how well-intentioned, are not a permissible means of collecting information from us.”

The social network has also sent a letter to the university, allegedly threatening further enforcement action if the project did not shut down and delete the data it has collected.

Earlier, the researchers at New York University discovered that Facebook is failing to label who paid for some election ads, including some on behalf of Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s campaign, reports BuzzFeed News.

Laura Edelson, a researcher with the NYU project, was quoted as saying that the Joe Biden ads are what Facebook labels “paid partnerships,” more akin to sponsored posts with an influencer than a typical election ad.

“Those things have become a huge business right now, and they’re not made transparent in the Facebook Ads Library,” she said.

Edelson and her colleagues previously found that Facebook failed to identify and label 9.7 percent of ads for elections and issues placed between May 2018 and June 2019.


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