(RepublicanInformer.com)- Facebook is getting pressure from lawmakers over the recent suspensions of multiple researchers.
This time, though, the pressure is coming from Democrats in the U.S. Senate.
It all started when Facebook suspended the accounts of researchers from New York University. Those researchers created a tool that would analyze political ads and how they spread misinformation on the social media platform.
On Monday, three Democratic Senators — Mark Warner from Virginia, Chris Coons from Delaware and Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota — wrote an open letter to Facebook asking for details on why Facebook suspended their accounts. They want to know why the platform decided to cut off their work that was investigating the spread of misinformation on the social media giant.
Their message was underscored by a letter that Facebook received from the Federal Trade Commission recently. That letter said Facebook’s explanation for suspending these accounts because of their agreement to the agency as “inaccurate.”
The letter the senators sent to Facebook read:
“We were surprised to learn that Facebook has terminated access to its platform for researchers connected with the NYU Ad Observatory project. 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.”
Last week, Facebook suspended the accounts of Damon McCoy and Laura Edelson. Those two researchers created what they call the Ad Observer tool.
Facebook users could use the tool to voluntarily share anonymous information about political adds they saw on the platform. It would also allow journalists and researchers to follow any trends in political advertising on Facebook.
In response, the Big Tech giant sent a cease-and-desist letter to the researchers. The company demanded they stop use of the tool and also take down the results of research they conducted last year — which happened only two weeks prior to the 2020 presidential election.
For some reason, though, Facebook didn’t act on those demands until last week, when they banned the researchers’ accounts.
The Knight First Amendment Institute is representing the researchers in this case. They said Facebook decided to take the action only hours after Edelson informed the social media company they were investigating misinformation being spread about the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol building.
Facebook tried to defend itself, though, by writing a blog post. Mark Clark, the product management director of the company, wrote that Facebook ultimately suspended their accounts because their tool used “unauthorized means to access and collect data.”
That is in violation of the terms of service that Facebook has. Clark also said the company was forced to take action in the matter “in line with our privacy program under the FTC order.”
In 2019, the FTC imposed an order on Facebook that forces the company to obtain a user’s “affirmative express consent” before any data could be shared with a third party.