A leaked 23-page document created at Facebook describes how the social network could target children as young as 14 with ads for when they felt “worthless” and “insecure”.
The document, which was obtained by The Australian, states that Facebook can figure out when young people feel “defeated”, “anxious”, “nervous”, “silly”, “stupid”, “useless”, “stressed”, and a “failure” by using algorithms that analyze what they post and who they interact with. It then details how advertisers can target them at moments when they “need a confidence boost.”
Update: A Facebook spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that the analysis was done 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," the spokesperson said.
One of the most interesting parts of the report is Facebook’s analysis of the kinds of emotions that young people express during a typical week — “Monday - Thursday is about building confidence; the weekend is for broadcasting achievements,” it says.
This isn’t the first time that Facebook’s methods of ad-targeting have created a controversy. A 2016 report published by ProPublica revealed that advertisers on Facebook were able to exclude blacks, Hispanics and people from other races from certain ad campaigns, something that Facebook disabled earlier this year.
Pranav Dixit is a tech reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Delhi.
Contact Pranav Dixit at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.