Facebook is in hot water over its failure to protect children in Australia from “stalker ads,” the type of advertisement that targets vulnerable groups in the hopes of eliciting profit at the expense of the consumer.
According to a study by Reset Australia, Facebook has harvested young people’s data and then allowed advertisers to engage in such behavior, pushing gambling, extreme weight loss, alcohol, and smoking ads to its audiences, often children.
While gambling ads on TV in places like the United Kingdom have been reined in not to reach children, Australia is facing a challenge of its own, particularly with the prevalence of online gambling advertisements.
An original report by Reset Australia was introduced in April, and it outlined what it considered to be various offenses on the part of the social media giant. Now, the organization is offering more commentary on how these practices have changed, if at all.
The organization has since cautioned that lawmakers cannot trust Facebook to assist, aid, or otherwise help work on children’s data code norms in the country. Back in July, Facebook finally mustered up the courage to address the issue through legal advisors and said that it would discontinue the practice.
The social media giant said that it had adopted various safety mechanisms to ensure that vulnerable consumers are not targeted by inappropriate advertisement, but Reset Australia is hardly convinced.
According to the organization’s director of data policy, Dr Rys Farthing, the moral dilemma has been outsourced to machines rather than humans. Thanks to Facebook’s AI, the algorithms can decide when to display those ads, with no scruples of who sits on the receiving end.
AI Steps in to Make Moral Choices for Advertisers
“Given the power of their AI, this may actually be worse for children,” Farthing argues. In comparative terms, laws may prohibit advertisers from targeting specific groups, but AI seems to be given a laxer code of conduct. Farthing believes that all of this, including the gambling ads, is done to serve the social media’s own interest rather than consider consumer protection.
Reset Australia further argues that there is evidence that the company’s APIs, including Facebook Pixel and SPK, continue to be active and attached to teenager accounts so they can harvest data and turn it into actionable leads for the algorithms. Farthing has expressed doubt that this constitutes the right way of advertising:
“This is hardly a precautionary approach to advertising for children. Instead, it means the most private, intimate details of young people are still being harvested to fuel Facebook’s intrusive advertising system.”
Reset Australia director of data policy Dr Rys Farthing
The organization has become more vocal about advertisement during a new pitch by the government to review privacy in the country, paying particular interest to children and their interests first. Facebook has been caught “red-handed” critics of the social media giant claim.
According to a YouGov poll conducted at the request of Reset Australia, around 82% of young people aged 16-17 in the country have seen ads that have made them feel uncomfortable. Reset Australia is confident that this type of predatory behavior should end, and children’s interests should come first. A study by the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom has found that gambling ads tend to be more attractive to children than adults.