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Dems Press Facebook on Ad Political Research Cut-Off

Facebook sign at HQ
(Image credit: Facebook)

A trio of powerful Democratic senators are pressing Facebook on its decision not to let researchers at New York University's Ad Observatory Project to its platform, which Facebook said was out of privacy concerns.

The university is studying political advertising on Facebook, including finding what the senators called "a lack of transparency in how advertisers target political ads online on Facebook."

Also Read: Hawley Says Facebook Should Scrap Political Ad Ban

The senators expressed their surprise at the move in a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg dated Aug. 6.

"The opaque and unregulated online advertising platforms that social media companies maintain have allowed a hotbed of disinformation and consumer scams to proliferate, and we need to find solutions to those problems,” they told Zuckerberg, adding "it is imperative that Facebook allow credible academic researchers and journalists like those involved in the Ad Observatory project to conduct independent research that will help illuminate how the company can better tackle misinformation, disinformation, and other harmful activity that is proliferating on its platforms.”

Co-signing the letter were Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.).

They want Zuckerberg to answer a bunch of questions related to the move, including how many researcher and journalist accounts were terminated or disabled in 2021, why the accounts were terminated, and what it meant when it said it had terminated the accounts because it didn't want the research to "compromise people's privacy."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.