Facebook Sought to Target Troubled Teens with Ads

Facebook appears to have targeted vulnerable young people for advertising purposes, according to a report from Australia.

According to The Australian newspaper, which obtained documents about the targeting of young people from Facebook’s Australian office, the company was seeking ways to exploit the feelings of kids as young as 14 to serve up ads to them.

The documents, which were marked as confidential, show how the social media giant could monitor posts from youth to try to figure out how they were feeling. According to the newspaper, these included words like “defeated,” “overwhelmed,” “stressed,” “anxious,” “nervous,” “stupid,” “silly,” “useless” and “failure.”

The so-called sentiment analysis could then be used to target vulnerable kids with advertising based on their perceived mood. The idea was only to be used on young people in Australia and New Zealand.

For example, if a young person was feeling “defeated” because of being overweight, Facebook could show that person an advertisement for an exercise program or workout machine.

“The data on which this research is based was aggregated and presented consistent with applicable privacy and legal protections, including the removal of any personally identifiable information,” Facebook said in a statement to the newspaper.

This is not the first time Facebook has looked at sentiment analysis. The company was harshly criticized in 2012 when it conducted an experiment on nearly 700,000 users, without their knowledge, to see if the company could influence them through positive or negative posts in their newsfeeds.

Neither case appears to be in violation of the company’s Data Use Policy, which says the company “may use the information we receive about you … for internal operations, including troubleshooting, data analysis, testing, research and service improvement.”

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