Require platforms to provide Universal Advertising Transparency. Data should include who is paying, how much, targeting, impressions, reach and must be made available publicly, without restrictions.
Establish a “safe harbor,” or legal protections for researchers and journalists to investigate the operations of platforms as long as they handle data responsibly and adhere to professional and ethical standards.
Require platforms to make public data public. all public posts should be made available via public tools or searchable interfaces.
On August 3, 2021, Facebook shut down the personal Facebook accounts for several Cybersecurity for Democracy team members. Researchers, lawmakers, and civil society organizations quickly called for Facebook to reverse this action, which has effectively stalled Ad Observatory.
Open letter from researchers: Hundreds of scholars, technologists, and citizens signed a letter in support of Laura Edelson and NYU researchers in light of Facebook's suspension of their accounts, calling for the resinstatement, support of Universal Ad Transparency standards and other proposals. (August 6, 2021)
Civil society groups' statements of support:
- "ADL Condemns Facebook Decision to Shut Down Independent Study of Targeted Political Ads" ADL, August 6, 2021.
- "Facebook Shutdown of NYU Ad Observatory Project Researchers Undermines Democracy,"Common Cause, August 4, 2021.
"Consumer Reports criticizes Facebook for shutting off access to NYU researchers," Justin Brookman and Laurel Lehman, Consumer Reports, August 5, 2021.
- "Facebook Cannot Justify Its Opposition to Accountability," The Markup, August 4, 2021. "Why Facebook’s claims about the Ad Observer are wrong," Mozilla Foundation, August 4, 2021.
- Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Sen. John Warner (D-VA) sent a letter to Mark Zuckerberg demanding details on Facebook's suspension NYU researchers' accounts, as well as the platform's actions with the research community over all. (August 6, 2021)
FTC rebukes Facebook: FTC Acting Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection, Sam Levine, issued a letter to Facebook, clarifying that our Ad Observer extension does not violate the commission’s consent decree with the FTC. See Knight First Amendment Institute __statement. (August 5, 2021)
Previous statements of support In October 2020, more than 80 research, journalism, civic tech, privacy organizations and individuals signed a call to Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg to retract a cease and desist order against NYU researchers' Ad Observer plug-in tool, which allows Facebook users to volunteer to contribute information about the ads and ad targeting they encounter on the platform. Facebook also demanded that the project delete all the data it has collected. This issue remains ongoing.