Senators press Facebook for answers about why it cut off misinformation researchers ' TechCrunch

Facebook's decision to close accounts related to a misinformation research project caused a wide outcry from its critics. Now Congress is joining the fray.A few lawmakers criticised the decision at the moment, accusing Facebook of being hostile to efforts to make its opaque algorithms and ad targeting systems more transparent. For understanding the flow of political misinformation, researchers believe it is essential to study these hidden systems.Two researchers from NYU's Cybersecurity for Democracy Project were punished by the company. They worked on Ad Observer. This opt-in browser tool allows researchers to examine how Facebook targets different people based upon their demographics and interests.Facebook has been using users' privacy for years and it is now a good excuse to clamp down on researchers who expose its problems. I have asked the FTC for confirmation that this excuse is not as absurd as it sounds. Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) August 4, 2021A trio of Democratic senators have written a letter to Facebook asking for more information. Senators Amy Klobuchar, Chris Coons (D-DE), and Mark Warner (D-VA), wrote to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, asking for an explanation as to why the researcher accounts were closed and how it violated Facebook's terms of service. The letter was sent Friday by the lawmakers.The senators agreed that Facebook must protect user privacy. However, they also stressed that Facebook should allow journalists and academic researchers, such as those involved with the Ad Observatory project, to conduct independent research. This will help reveal how Facebook can better combat misinformation, disinformation and other harmful activities that are proliferating on its platforms.Since the 2016 election, Facebook disinformation was discovered to have been distributed by Facebook, lawmakers have urged the company's transparency regarding political advertising and misinformation. These concerns were only amplified by Facebook's role in spreading election disinformation that led to the revolt at the U.S. Capitol where Trump supporters tried to overturn the vote.Facebook claimed that the company had taken the account suspensions because of compliance with FTC in a blog post. Facebook's bluff was called by the FTC last week in a letter addressed to Zuckerberg. The agency noted that there is nothing in FTC guidance that would prevent it from encouraging research in public interest.Samuel Levine, acting director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the FTC, stated that the FTC supports transparency efforts, particularly around surveillance-based marketing.