Reps from Facebook reached out to PAPER to comment on this story, denying that the information they collected was used to create targeted advertisements. Their statement is copied in full below:
"On May 1, 2017, The Australian posted a story regarding research done by Facebook and subsequently shared with an advertiser. The premise of the article is misleading. Facebook does not offer tools to target people based on their emotional state.
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.
Facebook has an established process to review the research we perform. This research did not follow that process, and we are reviewing the details to correct the oversight."
<p><span></span>It's common knowledge that Facebook knows ways more about us that we ever wanted them to, but for some reason we go on with our lives, uploading all of our most personal data to the networking site, assuming its overlords will use our information for good - or at least for targeted ads that we actually like - than for evil.</p><p>It seems that somewhere along the line, Facebook tipped toward the darker end of the morality arc and started tracking teenagers in New Zealand and Australia who went online to share about feeling "defeated" and "worthless" (as, it should be noted, teens so often do), for advertising. </p><p>According to a document received this week by <em><a href="https://myaccount.news.com.au/theaustralian/subscribe?pkgDef=TA_SDO_P0415A_W04&directSubscribe=true&b=true&sourceCode=TAWEB_WRE170_a&mode=premium&dest=http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/media/digital/facebook-targets-insecure-young-people-to-sell-ads/news-story/a89949ad016eee7d7a61c3c30c909fa6?nk=4800fb714f6d28aa5bb82793bfb7aca9-1493645339&memtype=anonymous&nk=2fd2d774fee110cab5efaf79043dbccf-1493656765" target="_blank">The Australian</a></em><a href="https://myaccount.news.com.au/theaustralian/subscribe?pkgDef=TA_SDO_P0415A_W04&directSubscribe=true&b=true&sourceCode=TAWEB_WRE170_a&mode=premium&dest=http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/media/digital/facebook-targets-insecure-young-people-to-sell-ads/news-story/a89949ad016eee7d7a61c3c30c909fa6?nk=4800fb714f6d28aa5bb82793bfb7aca9-1493645339&memtype=anonymous&nk=2fd2d774fee110cab5efaf79043dbccf-1493656765"></a>, Facebook used a specific set of keywords and situations to help advertisers find "moments when young people need a confidence boost." These moments included keywords like "anxious," "useless," "stupid," "overwhelmed," "a failure," "stressed," and the aforementioned "defeated" and "worthless." These are the types of words teachers may listen for before sending a student to a guidance counselor, but Facebook screened for adolescent vulnerability as a rather predatory means to sell more advertising. Yikes. </p><p>"We have opened an investigation to understand the process failure and improve our oversight," a Facebook rep said<em>.</em> "We will undertake disciplinary and other processes as appropriate." It's <a href="https://arstechnica.com/business/2017/05/facebook-helped-advertisers-target-teens-who-feel-worthless/" target="_blank">unclear if Facebook</a> has used these strategies in other regions, or if they were only employed in Australia and New Zealand. </p><p><em>[h/t <a href="http://nymag.com/selectall/2017/05/facebook-advertisers-exploited-teens-who-felt-worthless.html" target="_blank">Select All</a>]</em><br></p><p><em>Image via Facebook</em></p>