The Wall Street Journal published a devastating critique of Facebook’s advertising last week, detailing some of the inappropriate ads that reach teenaged Facebook users.
The WSJ piece tells the story of 14-year-old Erica Lowder, who clicked on an ad for an app called Ilikeq that lets users rate a person’s attractiveness and comment on their photos. Grown men were then able to see the young girl’s photos and click through to her profile page. The story also details ads for nude webcams, prescription pills and handgun licenses being advertised to teenagers on the site.
“How can Facebook say here’s how we’re going to protect your kids, then sell all these ads to weird apps and sites that open kids up to terrible things?” said Dawn Lowder, Erica Lowder’s mother.
Facebook went on the defensive after the piece was published, telling CBS that it was “unfair” that the WSJ cherry-picked certain ad cases to make their point.
“We take the quality of ads on Facebook very seriously,” Facebook told the WSJ in a statement. “Because of the enormous volume of ads under review on a daily basis, we invest significant resources in both automated and manual tools to enforce our policies, along with tools to educate advertisers.”
Whether the WSJ only took the worst cases to illustrate its point or not, the fact remains that Facebook’s advertising to teens is flawed and likely needs to be reassessed. Even a few cases of these inappropriate ads being shown to young users is too many.