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Facebook Targeted Advertising – younger users during moments of psychological vulnerability

28 May 2017

From Wired:

Data mining is such a prosaic part of our online lives that it’s hard to sustain consumer interest in it, much less outrage. The modern condition means constantly clicking against our better judgement. We go to bed anxious about the surveillance apparatus lurking just beneath our social media feeds, then wake up to mindlessly scroll, Like, Heart, Wow, and Fave another day.

But earlier this month, The Australian uncovered something that felt like a breach in the social contract: a leaked confidential document prepared by Facebook that revealed the company had offered advertisers the opportunity to target 6.4 million younger users, some only 14 years old, during moments of psychological vulnerability, such as when they felt “worthless,” “insecure,” “stressed,” “defeated,” “anxious,” and like a “failure.”

The 23-page document had been prepared for a potential advertiser and highlighted Facebook’s ability to micro-target ads down to “moments when young people need a confidence boost.” According to The Australian’s report, Facebook had been monitoring posts, photos, interactions, and internet activity in real time to track these emotional lows. (Facebook confirmed the existence of the report, but declined to respond to questions from WIRED about which types of posts were used to discern emotion.)

The day the story broke, Facebook quickly issued a public statement arguing that the premise of the article was “misleading” because “Facebook does not offer tools to target people based on their emotional state.” The social network also promised that the research on younger users “was never used to target ads.” The analysis on minors did not follow Facebook’s research review protocols, the company wrote, so Facebook would be “reviewing the details to correct the oversight,” implying that the analysis had not been sanctioned by headquarters in Menlo Park.

Link to the rest at Wired

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5 Comments to “Facebook Targeted Advertising – younger users during moments of psychological vulnerability”

  1. Of course they were trying to point ads at any fool that will look – it’s how FB gets paid for deities sake.

    As many times as FB has been caught outright lying about what they’re doing in the background makes me wonder how much longer it’ll be before they’re blocked to protect adults/teens/children from themselves.

  2. This really only works if you update your Facebook status often, in such a way as to tell it/them that you feel good, bad, indifferent, etc. If you are that entwined with Facebook then you pretty much deserve what you get.

  3. ‘ If you are that entwined with Facebook then you pretty much deserve what you get.’

    I’m Australian and I don’t automatically blame the victim. I loathe Facebook and the more I learn about it the more I hate what it’s doing. If this article is accurate, then it’s Facebook that deserves condemnation, not the young and vulnerable who are only doing what millions? billions? of other vulnerable people are doing worldwide.

    I’m going to reblog this article in the hope that it may start to turn the tide against the whole Facebook phenomenon.

    • I don’t think this can really be called victim blaming, sometimes the choices people make should be questioned and criticised because this can actually lead to less people becoming victims in the future.
      This doesn’t mean that I hold Facebook in any less contempt, but young people need to realise the posting information about themselves online has consequences, and hopefully this article can show them that.

    • As much as I agree with you about what Facebook does behind the scenes, I must say it is an amazing tool for allowing people to remain connected when social connection are disrupted by:

      Distance from friends and family
      Having very young children
      Disability/mobility restrictions
      Time (e.g. lost friends)

      Although any social media network would allow this, the ubiquitous nature of facebook makes it very useful for these things and quite a valuable (double-edged) tool

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