On behalf of a group of researchers and journalists, lawyers have sent out a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, asking that he alter Facebook’s rules, which restrict them from conducting research on the site.
This was first reported by The New York Times, that reveals that this letter asks Zuckerberg to make “amendment to the terms of service that would establish a safe harbor for certain kinds of journalism and research, while appropriately protecting the privacy of Facebook’s users and the integrity of Facebook’s platform.”
The letter continues to explain the “safe harbor” as being “limited by design, and adoption of the proposed amendment would not substitute for disclosure of information to journalists, researchers, and the general public through other channels. We believe, however, that Facebook’s establishment of the safe harbor would meaningfully expand the space for digital journalism and research that is especially urgent.”
Stating urgency of the request, the letter also asks Facebook CEO to respond to it by 7 September 2018.
If you are wondering what kind of research has been restricted by Facebook on the platform, they are reports that investigate how the platform tracks its users, the increasing role of chatbots on Facebook, or the way Facebook’s adverts work. The platform has time and again restricted such content to be researched.
The said restrictions come when Facebook is under immense pressure because of its failure to stop Russia’s use of fake accounts during the 2016 elections, and of course the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
The letter goes on to read: “We understand that, in the wake of revelations concerning the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook is facing new pressure to protect the data that users entrust to it. This pressure is warranted and indeed overdue. Addressing legitimate privacy concerns, however, need not entail the obstruction of public-interest journalism and research.”
Facebook’s head of global news partnerships responded to this saying, “Journalists and researchers play a critical role in helping people better understand companies and their products — as well as holding us accountable when we get things wrong. We do have strict limits in place on how third parties can use people’s information, and we recognize that these sometimes get in the way of this work.” However, she did not say if the request will be taken in account or if any changes to the rules will be made.