Facebook denies targeting adverts at young teenagers

Social network says research data was anonymous

Facebook

Facebook has refuted claims that it helped advertisers target young users who may be feeling "overwhelmed [and] anxious".

An internal Facebook research paper, seen by The Australian, allegedly details how the company can monitor the activity of users as young as 14 years old to work out when they are feeling "useless", "nervous", "defeated", "stressed", "overwhelmed", "silly", "anxious", and "stupid".

A Facebook spokesperson called the accusations "misleading", telling IT Pro in a statement: "We do not offer tools to target people based on their emotional state. 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."

The paper also covered when teens were likely to be feeling happy or excited. Facebook told The Australian that it was inappropriate to target young children in this manner, saying in a separate statement: "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 company added.

The toolkit used by Facebook to gather this information, known as 'sentiment analysis', is common throughout the advertising and marketing industries. It's often used by companies to determine how certain demographics feel about a product brand or event, making use of social media tools like trending topics and hashtags.

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