In Depth

Facebook denies targeting 'insecure' young for ads

Social media giant could identify young people needing 'a confidence boost'

Facebook has hit back at a "misleading" report which claims it exploits the emotional state of young users in Australia for marketing purposes. 

According to a document obtained by The Australian, the social media giant says it has the ability to identify "moments when young people need a confidence boost" to assist advertisers. 

Facebook has been "monitoring posts and activity from users as young as 14", added the newspaper, and can "pinpoint" feelings of insecurity and "failure". Advertisers could also access information regarding "body confidence" and "working out". 

In its response, Facebook said "the premise of the article is misleading" and that it "does not offer tools" to target people in the manner suggested. 

It added that its report, which was carried out by an Australian researcher, had been "intended to help marketers understand how people express themselves on Facebook". 

However, it continued, the analysis "did not follow" its standard research process and was being reviewed "to correct the oversight". 

Alphr says the "damning" report offered a "depressing glimpse at how social networks can leverage the emotions of young people to aid commercial pitches". 

In 2014, Facebook conducted a secret study that allowed academics to "change the order of news feeds as part of a physiological experiment", adds the website. It later apologised when critics deemed the research "unethical". 

Facebook is also facing further scrutiny over its Live feed after a man streamed the murder of his baby daughter on the site. 

The footage was online for nearly 24 hours before it was removed, Reuters reports, with one video gaining 258,000 views. 

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