Why Facebook is suddenly afraid of the F.T.C.
This article about Facebook mentions the social media company's decision to suspend the accounts of NYU researchers, including Laura Edelson and Damon McCoy, who launched the Ad Observer initiative.
In the piece, the author notes that last month, when Facebook tossed the N.Y.U. Ad Observatory researchers off its platform, the F.T.C. pushed back. "The researchers, Laura Edelson and Damon McCoy, were using a browser extension that they’d built to examine Facebook’s Ad Library, a searchable database of advertisements running on Facebook products, to understand the social and political effects of those ads," she writes, citing McCoy and Edelson's op-ed in the New York Times: "'When Facebook shut down our accounts, we had just begun studies intended to determine whether the platform is contributing to vaccine hesitancy and sowing distrust in elections,' they wrote. 'We were also trying to figure out what role the platform may have played leading up to the Capitol assault on Jan. 6.'”
The article's author goes on to point out that shortly before the November election, Edelson and McCoy found that, contrary to its own disclosure rules, Facebook was not labelling all political ads to show who had paid for them.
“Around the same time, Facebook sent them a cease-and-desist letter, claiming that they were violating user-privacy requirements, imposed by the F.T.C. in 2019, which Facebook had agreed to create after the company was found to be flouting an earlier F.T.C. order,” she writes. “In a pointed letter to Zuckerberg about Facebook’s decision to oust Edelson and McCoy, Samuel Levine, F.T.C.’s acting director of consumer protection, wrote, ‘Had you honored your commitment to contact us in advance, we would have pointed out that the consent decree does not bar Facebook from creating exceptions for good-faith research in the public interest.’ He added, ‘We hope that the company is not invoking privacy . . . as a pretext to advance other aims.’ It was an encouraging indication that Khan’s F.T.C. will not spend the next four years in thrall to Big Tech.”