Thursday 26 April 2018

Facebook apologises for spying on moods of 'vulnerable' teens

The internet giant has previously been criticised for manipulating emotions and questionable advertising practices. Stock photo: PA
The internet giant has previously been criticised for manipulating emotions and questionable advertising practices. Stock photo: PA

James Titcomb

Facebook has been forced to apologise after the social media giant was found studying children to determine if they were emotionally vulnerable.

A leaked document revealed how the company was able to establish if users as young as 14 were feeling "worthless", "insecure" or "anxious".

Facebook denied it had used the data to target adverts to teenagers, saying the research had only been used to help firms understand how people use the social network.

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

The document, written by staff at 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".

The company could also establish how young users tended to feel at different times of the week.

Teenagers were most likely to be "building confidence" early in the week, or wanting to "broadcast achievements" at the weekend, it found.

Facebook, which allows children as young as 13 to sign up, denied reports that advertisers were able to target teenagers based on their emotions and said users' privacy had not been compromised.

"We do not offer tools to target people based on their emotional state," a spokesman said.

It did, however, say studying users' emotions broke internal rules and promised an investigation.

The internet giant has previously been criticised for manipulating emotions and questionable advertising practices.

The latest scandal comes as the UK signals plans to force social media firms to pay for the cost of policing digital crimes.

The UK's home affairs select committee has concluded that the firms should be fined if they do not quickly censor illegal posts.

The committee says that the behaviour of Facebook, Twitter and Google has been "completely irresponsible and indefensible" and that they should be presented with the bill for investigating crimes committed over their networks. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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