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Why can’t questions be asked of Facebook’s ads? Kenan Malik

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October 25, 2020 at 06:45AM

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Researchers have every right to investigate how the company’s data is used by advertisers

Facebook wants you to know that it’s being transparent about political ads, requiring advertisers to verify their identity and to show who paid for an ad.

But it doesn’t want to be too transparent. It has sent cease and desist letters to two New York University researchers, Laura Edelson and Damon McCoy, part of the Online Political Transparency Project, who are investigating how people are targeted by ads. They helped develop a browser plug-in called Ad Observer, which allows people voluntarily to share data about political ads on Facebook. Edelson and McCoy are particularly interested in two aspects of political ads that Facebook won’t publicly discuss – how particular people are targeted and how campaigns craft messages based on criteria such as race or age.

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