Journalists and researchers call for safe harbour to investigate Facebook data

A group of academics have written to Facebook calling for the company to relax its terms and conditions for journalists and researchers investigating how Facebook data is used.

“Facebook influences public discourse in ways that are not fully understood by the public or even by Facebook itself,” states the letter.

Signed by three academics from Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, and sent to Mark Zuckerberg, the letter argued that “journalists and researchers play a crucial role in illuminating this influence,” and that they should be granted safe harbour to do so.

The letter called for Facebook to amend terms of service, claiming that at the moment, they “severely limit the ability (of journalists and researchers) to do that work, by prohibiting them from using basic tools of digital investigation on Facebook’s platform.”

They said that the letter was being sent “on behalf of journalists and researchers who would like to pursue projects that are manifestly in the public interest but are barred by Facebook’s terms of service.”

The letter cited analysis by the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, and reported in The Washington Post, uncovering “the true reach of the Russian disinformation campaign on Facebook,” as an example of how researchers and the press can draw not only the public’s  eye but Facebook’s attention, towards issues that were not previously understood.


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