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Facebook denies targeting insecure youngsters with specific advertising

Tyrone Stewart
Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook has denied claims that it uses tools to benefit advertisers by targeting emotionally vulnerable and insecure youths with certain advertising.

The allegations come from internal documents acquired by The Australian. The documents show detailed monitoring of posts, comments and interactions, under what Facebook calls ‘sentiment analysis’, which uses a system to figure out when people feel ‘defeated’, ‘overwhelmed’, ‘stressed’, and ‘anxious’, among other negative feelings.

This information can then be shared with advertisers so they can target young Facebook users at their most vulnerable. However, Facebook, though admitting to sharing the research with advertisers, denies the data is used to target people based on their emotional state.

“Facebook does not offer tools to target people based on their emotional state,” the social network said in a blog post. “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.”

Despite Facebook’s plea, the research – which only covered users in Australia and New Zealand – could land it in hot water with the Australian authorities for breaching guidelines for advertising and marketing toward children.