Facebook 'helped advertising companies target teens' who felt 'worthless'

World News

FACEBOOK is "investigating" after it was accused of helping advertisers target teenagers when they felt at their most vulnerable.

Leaked documents reportedly revealed how the social network could exploit the moods and insecurities of young users – and use them to the gain of advertisers.

Facebook said it would open an investigation after The Australian, which obtained internal documents, published the allegations on Monday.

The files showed that by monitoring posts, comments and interactions on the site, Facebook can figure out when people as young as 14 feel "defeated", "overwhelmed", "stressed", "anxious", "nervous", "stupid", "silly", "useless", and a "failure".

This information could be used by advertisers to target young Facebook users when they are potentially more susceptible to so-called "retail therapy".

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The marketing pitches were written by two Australian Facebook execs and included information about when young people are likely to feel excited, reflective, as well as other emotions related to overcoming fears.
"Monday-Thursday is about building confidence; the weekend is for broadcasting achievements," the document read.

After the revelations over the weekend, a Facebook spokesperson said: "We have opened an investigation to understand the process failure and improve our oversight.

"We will undertake disciplinary and other processes as appropriate."

But on Monday evening the tech firm issued a second statement, distancing itself from the allegations.

It confirmed that the information had been shared with advertisers but that the report was "misleading".

"Facebook does not offer tools to target people based on their emotional state," a spokesperson said.

HOW TO STOP FACEBOOK COLLECTING YOUR DATA

1. Use the “private browsing” setting whenever you are online.

2. Clear out your cookies – these are small bits of software that stay on your computer and track your activity.

3. Change your phone settings to stop the Facebook app seeing things such as your photos or location.

4. Don’t “like” things on Facebook. Instead, deprive the social network of data about you.

5. Log off!

"The analysis done by an Australian researcher 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."

If you regularly use Facebook, be warned.

The research only covered Facebook users in Australia and New Zealand but the social network stores more information about you than you could imagine.

The social network uses special algorithms to predict your moods and the life you lead, so it can sell it on to advertisers.

But follow our simple instructions and you can find out what it has on you – and make an informed choice about what to share on your profile.

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