We research misinformation on Facebook, it just disabled our accounts

concentric circles of megaphones

Illustration credit: Nicholas Konrad/The New York Times

Laura Edelson, a Ph.D. candidate in computer science at NYU Tandon School of Engineering, and Damon McCoy, an associate professor of computer science and engineering and member of NYU’s Center for Cybersecurity, are affiliated with the nonpartisan research group Cybersecurity for Democracy.

After Facebook disabled their accounts and access to data that they have been using to study how misinformation spreads on the company’s platform, McCoy and Edelson penned this commentary responding to Facebook’s own statement on their actions.

“We collect identifying information only about Facebook’s advertisers. We believe that Facebook is using privacy as a pretext to squelch research that it considers inconvenient,” McCoy and Edelson wrote.

Their research team created Ad Observer, a browser extension with the purpose of analyzing how ads are categorized and labeled, to better understand the media platform’s ad usage and impact. 

“By shutting us off from its own research tools, [and suspending our accounts], Facebook is making our work harder. This is unfortunate. Facebook isn’t protecting privacy. It’s not even protecting its advertisers. It’s protecting itself from scrutiny and accountability.

The public deserves more transparency about the systems the company uses to sell the public’s attention to advertisers and the algorithms it employs to promote content. We will keep working to ensure the public gets that transparency.” McCoy and Edelson state.