Connect with us

SOCIAL

Facebook Shuts Down Project Analyzing the Impact of Misinformation in Political Ads on the Platform

Published

on

This is not a great look for Facebook.

Earlier in the week, Facebook announced that it had been forced to cut off a group of NYU researchers from accessing Facebook’s internal usage data, because the NYU team had failed to adhere to the platform’s more stringent research usage conditions, which it implemented in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal a few years back. 

As explained by Facebook:

“For months, we’ve attempted to work with New York University to provide three of their researchers the precise access they’ve asked for in a privacy-protected way. Today, we disabled the accounts, apps, Pages and platform access associated with NYU’s Ad Observatory Project and its operators after our repeated attempts to bring their research into compliance with our Terms.”

Facebook further noted that the NYU team, which had been researching the spread of misinformation via political ads on the platform specifically, had been using “unauthorized means” to access and collect data from Facebook users, which is in violation of its Terms of Service.

“We took these actions to stop unauthorized scraping and protect people’s privacy in line with our privacy program under the FTC Order.”

Which seems to make sense – no one wants another Cambridge Analytica debacle, and given the more complex conditions imposed on such by the FTC, as part of its punishment of Facebook over the CA data leak, of course, Facebook is keen to stay within the rules, and ensure that absolutely no potential misuse is allowed to occur.

The problem is, the FTC never imposed any such conditions.

As the FTC has explained today, the agreement that it established with the company “does not bar Facebook from creating exceptions for good-faith research in the public interest”.

As explained by Samuel Levine, the Acting Director of the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection, via an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg:

I write concerning Facebook’s recent insinuation that its actions against an academic research project conducted by NYU’s Ad Observatory were required by the company’s consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission. As the company has since acknowledged, this is inaccurate. The FTC is committed to protecting the privacy of people, and efforts to shield targeted advertising practices from scrutiny run counter to that mission.”

So if it wasn’t because of the FTC order, maybe Facebook was just being extra cautious – or maybe it simply misinterpreted the ruling and it will now re-enable the NYU research.

Or, as some have suggested, maybe the NYU team was getting a little too close to revealing potentially damaging findings into the impact that Facebook ads can have in regards to spreading political misinformation.

As noted, the NYU team was specifically focused on measuring the impacts of political ads, and the messaging they present, and how Facebook users respond to such, essentially measuring their potential impact on voting outcomes.

Following the Trump campaign, which weaponized Facebook ads through the use of divisive, emotion-charged messaging, the concern is that Facebook’s advanced ad tools can, in the wrong hands, provide a significant advantage for those willing to bend the truth in their favor, by targeting people’s key concerns and pain points with manipulative, if not downright false, messaging, which can then be amplified at huge scale.

As a reminder, while Facebook does fact-check regular posts on its platform, it does not fact-check political ads, a potentially glaring omission in its process.

In order to measure the potential impacts of this, the NYU Ad Observatory project built a browser extension, which, when installed, then collects data about the ads that each user is shown on Facebook, including specific information as to how those ads have been targeted. That process, which is somewhat similar to how Cambridge Analytica gathered data on Facebook usage, spooked Facebook, which sent a cease and desist letter to the NYU team in October last year, calling on them to shut it down. The NYU team refused, and while Facebook did allow them to keep using the extension up till now, The Social Network has reassessed, leading to this latest action to stop them from collecting data.

To be fair, Facebook does say that such info is already available via its Ads Library, but the NYU team says that this is incomplete, and inaccurate in some cases, therefore not providing a full view of the potential impacts.

But even so, Facebook, overall, seems to be in the right, despite incorrectly pointing to the FTC order as the main cause (Facebook almost immediately clarified this claim). But again, the concern that many have highlighted is that Facebook could really be looking to halt potentially unflattering data which could highlight the role that it plays in the distribution of misinformation, leading to incidents like the Capitol Riots and other acts of political dissent. 

So does the data available thus far show that Facebook ads are misleading the public?

There have been various analyses of the available NYU data set, some showing that Facebook is failing to label all political ads, despite its expanded efforts, and another showing that Facebook is still allowing some ads using discriminatory audience targeting to run, even though it supposedly removed these categories from its targeting. 

The NYU data set has also revealed more advanced insights into how politicians are looking to target specific audiences, as reported by Bloomberg:

“For instance, the [NYU dataset] revealed that Jon Ossoff, a Georgia Democrat, targeted Facebook users who were interested in topics such as former president Barack Obama, comedian Trevor Noah and Time magazine during his campaign for US Senate. His opponent, former Republican Senator David Perdue, targeted users who liked Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News.”

That additional insight could prove invaluable for learning how political candidates might be focusing on specific audiences, and how that can alter their response – which is a key element in then developing ways to stop the misuse of such, and avoid messaging manipulation going forward.

It seems, then, like Facebook should allow the project to continue, especially given the impacts of misinformation in the current COVID vaccine rollout. But it’s decided to shut it down.

Is that helpful, overall? Probably not, but it could help Facebook protect its reputation, even with the PR hit that it’s now taking for cutting off their access.

In the end, however, we don’t have any definitive answers. Sure, the NYU team does now have a fairly sizeable dataset to analyze, which could still reveal dangerous trends to watch, and mitigate in future. But more transparency is the key to eliminating the spread of false narratives, and seeding dangerous conspiracies and other untruths in the voting public.

Facebook, ideally, should want to contribute to this, and learn from the results. But either it’s too risky, given the user data access it requires, or it’s too damaging, with Facebook potentially ending up looking a lot worse as a result.

We don’t know the definitive reason, but as noted, right now, it’s not the best look for The Social Network. 

Socialmediatoday.com

SOCIAL

17 Content Options for Each Stage of the Sales Journey [Infographic]

Published

on

17 Content Options for Each Stage of the Sales Journey [Infographic]

Looking to formulate a better content strategy for 2023?

This will help – the team from Orbit Media has put together a listing of 17 content formats, and where they fit within the sales funnel which could provide some inspiration for your planning.

There are some good pointers here, with specific approaches that you can take at each stage of the journey.

Check out the full listing below – while you can read more on the Orbit Media website.

Source link

Continue Reading

SOCIAL

Meta Soars by Most in Decade, Adding $100 Billion in Value

Published

on

Meta Soars by Most in Decade, Adding $100 Billion in Value

Correction: February 2, 2023 This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: An earlier version of this article misstated how much Meta expected to spend on its deal with the virtual reality start-up Within. It is $400 million, not $400 billion. Meta’s stock surged on Thursday …

Source link

Continue Reading

SOCIAL

Twitter’s Cancelling Free Access to its API, Which Will Shut Down Hundreds of Apps

Published

on

Twitter’s Cancelling Free Access to its API, Which Will Shut Down Hundreds of Apps

Well, this is certainly problematic.

Twitter has announced that, as of February 9th, it’s cutting off free access to its API, which is the access point that many, many apps, bot accounts, and other tools use to function.

That means that a heap of Twitter analytics apps, management tools, schedulers, automated updates – a range of key info and insight options will soon cease to function. Which seems like the sort of thing that, if you were Twitter, you’d want to keep on your app.

But that’s not really how Twitter 2.0 is looking to operate – in a bid to rake in as much revenue as absolutely possible, in any way that it can, Twitter will now look to charge all of these apps and tools. But most, I’d hazard a guess, will simply cease to function.

The bigger business apps already pay for full API access – your Hootsuite’s and your Sprout Social’s – so they’ll likely be unaffected. But it could stop them from offering free plans, which would have a big impact on their business models.

The announcement follows Twitter’s recent API change which cut off a heap of Twitter posting tools, in order, seemingly, to stop users accessing the platform through a third-party UI. 

Now, even more Twitter tools will go extinct, a broad spread of apps and functions that contribute to the real-time ecosystem that Twitter has become. Their loss, if that’s what happens, will have big impacts on overall Twitter activity.

On the other hand, some will see this as another element in Twitter’s crackdown on bots, which Twitter chief Elon Musk has made a personal mission to eradicate. Musk has taken some drastic measures to kill off bots, some of which are having an impact, but Musk himself has also admitted that such efforts are reducing overall platform engagement

This, too, could be a killer in this respect

It’ll also open the door to Twitter competitors, as many automated update apps will switch to other platforms. This relates to things like updates on downtime from video games, weather apps, and more. There are also tools like GIF generators and auto responders – there’s a range of tools that could now look for a new home on Mastodon, or some other Twitter replicant. 

In this respect, it seems like a flawed move, which is also largely ignorant of how the developer community has facilitated Twitter’s growth. 

But Elon and Co. are going to do things their own way, whether outside commentators agree or not – and maybe this is actually a path to gaining new Twitter data customers, and boosting the company’s income. 

But I doubt it.

If there are any third-party Twitter apps that you use, it’ll be worth checking in to see if they’re impacted before next week.



Source link

Continue Reading

Trending

en_USEnglish