Facebook is assisting marketers in targeting "worthless" teenagers in Australia and New Zealand, The Australian reports, citing an internal 23-page company document provided by an unknown source. The confidential document references a 2017 date and suggests that the Australian branch of the Menlo Park-based social media giant is allegedly looking to capitalize on teenagers who feel "insecure," "anxious," "useless," and "defeated," among other things. The company is reportedly using advanced algorithms to target people as young as 14 and determine when they're unhappy about their lives or themselves and use that as an opportunity to serve them relevant ads. The solution that the company is said to have developed works in real time and has so far been used to profile approximately 6.4 million high school and college students in Australia and New Zealand, the report reveals.
In a statement provided to The Australian, Facebook apologized for the controversy and said that targeting young, insecure children wasn't right, claiming that it started an internal probe into the matter. While no details regarding the investigation itself have been revealed, a company spokeswoman said that the firm will take disciplinary and related measures against some of its employees based on the findings of its probe. The document revealing Facebook's controversial and morally questionable practices was written and edited by Andy Sinn and David Fernandez, one of the several top executives at the Australian division of the company. The seemingly predatory advertising practices outlined by the document are likely in direct violation of the Australian Code for Advertising & Marketing Communications to Children code that mandates advertisers cannot collect or disclose identifiable data about people under the age of 15 without obtaining explicit consent from their parents.
The technology that's also used to track insecure Australian teenagers on Facebook-owned Instagram could theoretically be utilized in all parts of the world, but there's currently no evidence that the Menlo Park-based social media company is using it to capitalize on young people's insecurities in other countries. In a statement provided to The Australian, a Facebook representative refused to reveal whether the company engages in similar practices in other territories, but noted that the document obtained by the publication describes an advertising technique that wasn't approved by the company's top management which adheres to privacy standards that are higher than those mandated by the law.