Facebook has decided to ban researchers who are studying COVID-19 misinformation on the social media platform.

The researchers Facebook banned are from New York University (NYU) and are affiliated with the university's Cybersecurity for Democracy project.

This latest development comes after U.S. President Joe Biden has accused social media for the widespread COVID-19 misinformation that has contributed to the vaccine hesitancy in the country.

Facebook Blocks COVID-19 Misinformation Researchers

Facebook Bans Misinformation Researchers from NYU
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Facebook has blocked accounts of NYU researchers affiliated with the Cybersecurity for Democracy project, which has cut the "access of more than two dozen researchers and journalists examining the spread of misinformation online." This is according to Laura Edelson, one of those who have been banned, as quoted by Gizmodo.

The move has prevented the researchers from accessing Facebook's Ad Library and CrowdTangle, which share data on how posts are viewed, liked, and shared on the social media platform.

Edelson and fellow researcher Damon McCoy, in particular, have already previously clashed with Facebook. According to TechCrunch, Facebook "served the pair cease and desist letters just weeks before the 2020 election, calling on the team to disable an opt-in browser tool called Ad Observer and unpublish their findings."

Ad Observer is a browser tool that anyone can install that "give researchers a rare glimpse into how Facebook targets the ads that have transformed it into a trillion-dollar company," per the TechCrunch report.

Facebook Cites FTC Order for Decision

In a blog post, Facebook's Director of Project Management Mike Clark said that the company banned the NYU misinformation researchers "to stop unauthorized scraping and protect people's privacy in line with our privacy program under the FTC Order."

The order in question is an agreement Facebook entered with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that aims to protect user privacy, according to the report by Gizmodo.

Lawmakers Blast Facebook for Ban

Certain members of the Congress have already criticized Facebook for their decision to ban misinformation researchers. Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Senator Mark Warner said that Facebook seemed to have done the opposite of working with and better empowering researchers.

Senator Ron Wyden has also said in a tweet that Facebook has used the FTC order "as an excuse to crack down on researchers exposing its problems."

Spread of COVID-19 Misinformation on Facebook

The spread of COVID-19 misinformation, particularly about the COVID-19 vaccine, has been blamed by the U.S. government on social media platforms, particularly Facebook.

The COVID-19 pandemic and vaccine misinformation is "killing people," according to U.S. President Joe Biden. The U.S. government has criticized Facebook for not taking down conspiracy posts, anti-vaccine content, and the like.

Facebook has since pushed back against the claims of the government, saying that it will not take the blame for the government falling short of it's COVID-19 vaccine goal of 70% vaccination by July 4.

Related Article: Facebook vs Biden: Facebook Won't Take Blame for Missed COVID Vaccination Target, Spread of Misinformation

Facebook has argued that the company is doing its part to combat COVID-19 misinformation on its platform. Last year, Facebook removed 14 million COVID-19 misinformation posts. The social media platform also has a COVID-19 vaccine finder tool that helps users schedule appointments and look for available vaccine sites.

Facebook has also promoted pro-vaccine photo borders back in May when anti-vaccine profile photo frames began to run rampant. Last week, the company likewise announced a vaccine requirement for its employees returning to office.

Also Read: COVID-19 Vaccine Eligibility Campaigns on Facebook, Twitter Pushed by Biden to Invite 16 Year-Olds

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Written by Isabella James

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