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How Facebook Advertisers Exploited Teens Who Felt ‘Worthless’

Madison Malone Kircher
The company helped advertisers to target “moments when young people need a confidence boost.”

At this point, it’s a pretty safe assumption that Facebook knows more about you than you might like it to. Particularly, it seems, if you’re an Australian teenager feeling vulnerable and talking about it online. According to a document uncovered this week by The Australian, the company reportedly used a set of keywords and situations to help advertisers pinpoint “moments when young people need a confidence boost.” Because being a teen isn’t hard enough already.

The guidelines were specifically for advertising in Australia and New Zealand. Terms Facebook used reportedly included words like “worthless,” “defeated,” “anxious,” “useless,” “stupid,” “overwhelmed,” “a failure,” and “stressed.” Other methods involved image recognition, and zeroing in on young users who might be unhappy with how they look or trying to lose weight, Ars Technica reports.

“We have opened an investigation to understand the process failure and improve our oversight,” a Facebook representative told The Australian. “We will undertake disciplinary and other processes as appropriate.” As noted by Ars Technica, it’s unclear if these targeted strategies have been used by Facebook in other parts of the world.

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