Facebook: Controlling Behavior Underscores Facebook Insecurity

August 30, 2021

Misinformation was running rampant long before the pandemic hit its stride. No one knows if the misinformation wave that currently plagues the United States and the world has hit its peak. Experts, like social media researcher Laura Edelson, are investigating the how misinformation spreads, but social media platforms do not like it says Vox Recode in “‘People Do Not Trust That Facebook Is Healthy Ecosystem.’” Edelson works at the NYU Ad Observatory and focuses her current research on Facebook’s role in spreading misinformation.

She believes that misinformation encourages COVID anti-vaxxers and is eroding democracy. Unfortunately Facebook decided to block Edelson and her colleagues’ Facebook accounts. They use their accounts to study political advertisements and misinformation. Facebook stated that the Ad Observatory violated users’ privacy through its Ad Observer tool. Edelson replied that only volunteers download the tool.

Lawmakers, free speech advocates, and the FTC condemned Facebook. Edelson states that Facebook wants to bury her research, because it exposes its part in spreading misinformation. On Facebook, users share misinformation more than any other content and the company refuses to disclose who pays for political ads. It demonstrates that Facebook does not like Edelson’s research and wants to stop it, because it hurts their bottom dollar.

Facebook, of course, denies the allegation and it points to larger problems:

“But Facebook’s effective shutdown of the Ad Observatory raises larger questions about whether the company is trying to limit outside interrogation of the company’s business practices in the name of protecting its users’ privacy. At the same time, the social media network has good reason to be worried about privacy as it faces intense regulatory scrutiny for past missteps that led to it having to pay the largest penalty ever imposed by the Federal Trade Commission.”

Edelson states that Facebook is an unhealthy misinformation ecosystem. Facebook and other misinformation platforms could be doing irreparable damage to society. Because this is a current problem, Facebook should be working with Edelson and other researchers who want to combat the misinformation plague.

Facebook and other companies, however, are more concerned about losing control and revenue. The good news is … Wait. There isn’t any for those researching the world’s most stabilizing and refreshing social media system.

Whitney Grace, August 30, 2021

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