Facebook loves to tout its own openness and transparency. However, the company doesn’t seem to be so forthcoming when it’s under the microscope itself. According to social media analyst Jonathan Albright, the site scrubbed data and thousands of posts related to the ongoing Russian ad controversy.
Albright discovered this when he challenged Facebook’s assertion that the Russian-bought ads, which sought to influence the 2016 presidential election, had only reached 10 million users. Based on his own research using publicly available Facebook data, he thought the ads could have reached two to three times more people. Facebook officials called Albright to discuss his research, and revealed they had removed nearly all of the information he’d used to reach his conclusions.
According to Facebook, it was merely correcting a “bug” that had allowed Albright to access this information. While the company may see it as a bug to be fixed, it also looks an awful lot like Facebook is covering its tracks. Many experts, including George Washington University professor David Karpf, are uncomfortable with what that might mean.
“Any time you lose data, I don’t like it, especially when you lose data and you’re right in the middle of public scrutiny,” he said.
There’s no doubt that Facebook wants this controversy to go away, but trying to bury it and erase the evidence is not the right way to make that happen.