[open-science] Facebook shuts the gate after the horse has bolted, and hurts real research in the process

Alexandre Hannud Abdo abdo at member.fsf.org
Wed Apr 25 15:36:32 UTC 2018

Ni! Hey Benedikt,

That's a really good point for discussion.

Ain't this is basically fighting for the right to continue to use
unethically collected data for research?

On a much milder - yet much larger - scale, ain't it as if data from
experiments on war prisioners was being shut down, and the research
community was crying out about how bad it is to lose that data instead of
pointing to the fact that war prisoners are being used for experiments?

Even if having the data could help us understand the consequences of these
experiments, and even if that might eventually help avoid the worst of it,
doesn't that still represent an approach where it is *a priori OK* to
violate the prisoner's human rights?

Perhaps not, perhaps we still need more research to support the idea that
we should not have one single entity that collects, distributes, analyses,
decides on, auctions and manipulates the identity and information on the
social - personal and political - lives of billions of people.

But perhaps most of this kind of research is just piggybacking on the ease
to massively violate human rights in order to build an academic career and
feel good by posing as a critic. Let alone the fact that most "critical"
research about Facebook is actually doing the job for their marketing
deparment, by "proving" to advertisers its effectiveness.

Facing that, and not needeing further proof that an oligopoly of
information and identity platforms is not suitable for democracy, I'd
rather focus my energy elsewhere.

That researchers and universities should be researching and promoting
descentralized information and identity platforms [1
<https://project.hubzilla.org/page/hubzilla/hubzilla-project>, 2
<https://matrix.org/blog/home/>, 3 <https://joinmastodon.org/>]; and
figuring out how to do on-line social research under ethical conditions.


On Wed, Apr 25, 2018 at 1:18 PM, Benedikt Fecher <fecher at hiig.de> wrote:

> Below is a call for signatures from computational social sciences /
> Internet Researchers regarding the Facebook-API for research purposes. I
> thought it might also be of relevance for this community; at least as a
> point of discussion / interesting case for openness in terms of access to
> company data (in particular from platforms).
> Background: In reaction to the Cambridge Analytica controversy, Facebook
> has recently announced a substantial tightening of access restrictions to
> the Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) of Facebook, Instagram, and
> other platforms it owns. Other platform providers are likely to follow
> suit. The APIs are the means through which third parties access data on
> these platforms, such as when banking, for retail. Even dating apps like
> Tinder access Facebook data to verify the identity of their users.
> Here is the call: https://policyreview.info/articles/news/facebook-shuts
> -gate-after-horse-has-bolted-and-hurts-real-research-process/786
> Best regards,
> benedikt
> --
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