WASHINGTON - Senator Mark Warner told the Senate news conference on Wednesday that Facebook Inc's move to disable the accounts of a group of New York University researchers who were studying political ads on its platform was deeply concerning.
On Tuesday, Facebook said it had cut off the personal accounts and access of the NYU researchers studying other-user privacy issues at the site.
Warner, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said that the action was a step backwards.
This latest action by Facebook to disable an outside group's transparency efforts efforts that have repeatedly facilitated revelations of ads that violated Facebook's terms of service, ads for frauds and predatory financial schemes, and political ads that were improperly omitted from the lackluster Ad Library is deeply concerning, he said in a statement.
Warner added that Congress should act to deal with fraud and misconduct in online advertising.
Facebook repeated the action on Wednesday, saying: We repeatedly explained our privacy concerns to NYU, but their researchers eventually chose not to address them and instead resumed scrapping people's data and ads from our platform, a spokesman said.
The NYU Ad Observatory project, which received a cease-and-desist letter from Facebook last year asking people to download a browser extension that collects information about how they are shown politically ads on the site.
Facebook has envisioned tools to promote transparency over advertising on its services, including its own ad library, a searchable online database showing the political ads on its site. However, scholars have criticized the library for being incomplete and difficult to use.
NYU researcher Laura Edelson told reporters in a series of tweets Tuesday that Facebook's actions had blocked their access to tools they used to uncover systemic flaws in the Facebook Ad Library and identify misinformation in political ads, including many sowing distrust in the U.S. election system. By discontinuing our accounts, Facebook has ended all this work effectively, said nasser.