Facebook targeted vulnerable teenagers with predatory ads, claims new report

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Facebook has been forced to apologise after it was found to be studying children to establish if they were emotionally vulnerable.

Documents that were leaked suggest that the company established whether youngsters as young as 14 were feeling “worthless”, “insecure” or “anxious”.

It is understood that Facebook denied that the information was then used for advertising purposes claiming that it was for research on how people use social media.

But the confidential memo revealed that users are often susceptible to “moments when young people need a confidence boost”.

The document was written by Facebook’s Australian office and revealed by The Australian newspaper, detailed how the company can analyse young users’ photos and status updates to determine when they feel “stressed”, “defeated”, “overwhelmed”, “nervous”, “stupid”, “silly”, “useless”, and a “failure”.

Facebook are also able to establish how users feel at different periods of the week with “building confidence” something that was common earlier in the week and to “broadcast achievements” something that happened at weekends.

Children as young as 13 can sign up for Facebook but they are not targeted by advertisers based on their emotions.

“We do not offer tools to target people based on their emotional state,” Facebook said in a statement.

“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.”

It is not the first time that the internet giant has faced criticism for manipulating emotions after it changed the news feeds of over 600,000 users to see their reaction.

Last year, Facebook was criticised after it was revealed that landlords and companies can exclude certain races from adverts.

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