Report: Facebook Allows Ads Targeting Children With Smoking, Alcohol And More

This week, a digital nonprofit revealed the results of an investigation that found Facebook is allowing businesses to advertise to children as young as 13 who have expressed an interest in smoking, drinking alcohol, gambling, and more.

The organization, Reset Australia, created a dummy Facebook page and advertising account to test whether it could get these ads through Facebook’s system. And while Facebook does not allow these controversial categories to be advertised to children under 18, it doesn’t stop advertisers from targeting children who have already expressed an interest in these subjects, or if the advertising isn’t explicitly obvious.

“Facebook appears to use teenagers’ data in the same way as adults,” Reset Australia executive director Chris Cooper told The Guardian. “This opens a can of worms about just how Facebook profits from under-age data, and exactly what protection they have against inappropriate targeting. Should a 13-year-old who lists their single status be getting targeted ads for a sugar-daddy dating service? Should a 15-year-old profiled as interested in alcohol see ads that suggest cocktail recipes based on their parent’s alcohol cabinet? Do we want 16-year-olds to have ads about gambling or political extremism targeted at them?”

Facebook responded with its usual blast of pride, claiming it has strong measures in place to prevent this sort of thing from happening. However, this study would seem to indicate Facebook has a lot more work to do before it can brag about protecting young users.

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