Monday, August 16, 2021

Facebook axes NYU profs who offer "Ad Observer" browser extensions for journalists and researchers to study ad placement (vs. political polarization)



Rory Mor and Cory Doctorow discuss Facebook’s TOS ban on automated tools (like “Ad Observer) from websites to track its own ad placement, link on Electronic Frontier Foundation.

TheVerge, in a story by Casey Newton, reports how Facebook axes the accounts (even personal accounts) of professors at NYU who offered Ad Observer to browsers recently. James Newton offered an earlier news story on the same site.

Indeed ProPublica reports that the use of its tool detected ads that Facebook would normally oppose running, highly political ads or for groups like the NRA.  One of the findings is that Facebook generally wants ads that are genuinely commercial and about products and services, not about politics or ideological issues.  This goes along with ideas like “commercial viability”.

But Facebook had written its own corporate blog post justifying its position, that research cannot compromise “personal privacy”. It’s a bit hard to reconcile these arguments.

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