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Facebook demands academics disable ad-targeting data tool

The company says the special browser plug-in the researchers have distributed to thousands of volunteers across the U.S. violates Facebook's terms of service.

BOSTON — Academics, journalists and First Amendment lawyers are rallying behind New York University researchers in a showdown with Facebook over its demand that they halt the collection of data on political ads-targeting the site. 

The researchers say the disputed tool is vital to understanding how Facebook has been used as a conduit for disinformation and manipulation. 

The company says the special browser plug-in the researchers have distributed to thousands of volunteers across the U.S. violates Facebook's terms of service. 

The company has long claimed protecting user privacy is its main concern, though NYU researchers say volunteers' anonymity is protected.