A leaked, confidential document has exposed Facebook’s unsavory and often predatory advertising practices which target teenagers as young as 14 and preys on their insecurities. The social networks has denied the allegations, however.
By monitoring users’ posts, media uploads, interactions on the platform, and their overall internet activity, the social media giant can establish when users are feeling “stressed,” “defeated,” “overwhelmed,” “anxious,” “nervous,” “stupid,” “silly,” “useless,” and a “failure,” the confidential document states, The Australian reports.
The Australian has published a series of articles detailing questionable practices by Facebook in the country, with the latest 23-page document, marked “Confidential: Internal Only,” providing unprecedented insight into how the corporation interacts with advertisers who use the platform.
“We have opened an investigation to understand the process failure and improve our oversight. We will undertake disciplinary and other processes as appropriate,” a Facebook spokeswoman said in a statement sent to The Australian at the weekend.
Facebook boasts a global user base of approximately 1.86 billion people but the company has built a far more detailed database of young people in Australia and New Zealand than had been previously reported anywhere.
The breakdown of the regional database of young people is as follows: 1.9 million high schoolers with an average age of 16, 1.5 million third-level students averaging roughly 21 years old, and 3 million workers averaging 26 years old.
The document details how Facebook collects precise information that is “not publicly available” on mood shifts within each demographic that is “shareable under non-disclosure agreement only.”
For instance, “anticipatory emotions are more likely to be expressed early in the week, while reflective emotions increase on the weekend,” wrote David Fernandez and Andy Sinn, the two senior executives at Facebook who prepared the document, as cited by The Australian.
‘‘Facebook only permits research following a rigorous procedure of review whenever sensitive data, particularly data involving young people or their emotional behavior, is involved,” Facebook said in a statement to The Australian.
“This research does not appear to have followed this process,” the company added.
However, targeting teenagers who are predominantly concerned with “looking good and body confidence,” and “working out & losing weight,” seems to have overstepped certain ethical boundaries for a company the size of Facebook which boasts a market cap of over $440 billion.
Facebook disputed The Australian’s report in a brief statement on Monday, describing the premise of the article as “misleading.”
“Facebook does not offer tools to target people based on their emotional state,” the company said, adding that the network’s analysis “was intended to help marketers understand how people express themselves on Facebook. It was never used to target ads and was based on data that was anonymous and aggregated.”
“Facebook has an established process to review the research we perform. This research did not follow that process, and we are reviewing the details to correct the oversight.”