How Facebook Exploits Underage Girls in its Quest for Ad Revenue

Sophie Bean, 14, of Sequim, Wash., said she was thought she was “liking” a Facebook ad related to fashion modeling. Instead, it promoted a Facebook page that recruited adult webcam models.

“I just thought it was for modeling, and I’m interested in that, and I thought it would help me out,” Sophie said.

Sophie wasn’t the only teen connecting with the page, which Facebook statistics show is most popular with users 13 to 17. Clicking on it didn’t pull the teens into nude webcam modeling, but did mean they would receive the page’s updates and could be mentioned in future versions of the ad.

- From the Wall Street Journal’s recent article: Nude Webcams and Diet Drugs: the Facebook Ads Teens Aren’t Supposed to See

This post is my third in recent weeks exploring what exactly is going on with the Facebook business model. The company reported stellar results in its latest earnings report, which has led to many questions as to exactly how they are making all this advertising money. Well the pieces are finally starting to come together, and the answer is not pretty.

For some context, I suggest you first read the previous articles I posted:

How Much of Facebook’s Ad Revenue is From Click Fraud?

This Man’s $600,000 Facebook Disaster is a Warning For All Small Businesses

With all that in mind, let’s move on to the third piece of the puzzle. The routine exploitation of the weakness and most gullible members of society, teenage girls.

The crazy thing here is not that some random selection of underage girls are being led to click on ads that direct them to adult video cam sites and dangerous dietary supplements, but that they represent the primary demographic clicking on these ads.

This story from the Wall Street Journal is sure to make your blood boil no matter who you are, but particularly if you are a parent with young children.

From the WSJ:

“Who do you like?” asked recent ads on Facebook, featuring young women in alluring poses.

Some of the ads were configured to reach young teens, who were invited to join an app called Ilikeq that let others rate their attractiveness, comment on their photos and say if they would like to date them.

That’s how 14-year-old Erica Lowder’s picture ended up on display to adult men online. Users of Ilikeq, one of Facebook’s fastest-growing “lifestyle” apps, were able to click through to the Indianapolis girl’s Facebook page. 

The case offers a glimpse into how young Facebook users are sometimes exposed to ads inappropriate for them. A 14-year-old girl in Washington state said she “liked” an ad that led to the Facebook page of a nude webcam-modeling site.
Facebook said it approved the ads for young teens because it hadn’t categorized Ilikeq as a dating site. It said it has now done so and has disabled Ilikeq ads for those below its minimum age for dating-site ads, 18. 

Advertisers on Facebook can set their ads to reach all users or narrow the focus. Facebook’s website says it can help advertisers target consumers based on an array of user information it collects, such as age, gender, relationship status, politics and type of phone owned.

“We take the quality of ads on Facebook very seriously,” Facebook said in a statement. 

Really? You could’ve fooled me.

Facebook used to limit ads to users 18 and older by default. An advertiser who wanted to reach younger people had to change the setting.

In 2011, it eliminated this restriction for some advertisers, so their ads could be shown to all unless specified. That change was extended to all advertisers in 2012, around the time of Facebook’s initial public offering.

Just a coincidence I’m sure…

The change meant roughly 10 million U.S. Facebook users aged from 13 to 17 were exposed to a wider range of marketing. Facebook said it made the change because most advertisers wanted to reach users of all ages, and most ads are appropriate for all.

Sophie Bean, 14, of Sequim, Wash., said she was thought she was “liking” a Facebook ad related to fashion modeling. Instead, it promoted a Facebook page that recruited adult webcam models.

“I just thought it was for modeling, and I’m interested in that, and I thought it would help me out,” Sophie said.

Sophie wasn’t the only teen connecting with the page, which Facebook statistics show is most popular with users 13 to 17. Clicking on it didn’t pull the teens into nude webcam modeling, but did mean they would receive the page’s updates and could be mentioned in future versions of the ad.

Sophie’s father, Robert Bean, said he found the matter “pretty disgusting.” He said that if Facebook is aware of such ads, “they need to be exposed for dealing with companies like this.”

Ads for diet products containing a substance called HCG have run on Facebook. HCG, a hormone produced during pregnancy, is approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a prescription drug for infertility. But the agency, in a 2011 news release headed “HCG Diet Products Are Illegal,” said HCG doesn’t help with weight loss and isn’t approved for over-the-counter sale for any purpose.

A Florida outfit that has run Facebook ads in the past uses an “HCG Diet Kits” Facebook page as an online storefront to sell HCG serum and syringes. The page is most popular with Facebook users aged 13 to 24, according to Facebook’s statistics. On Feb. 20, the page posted “Back in stock!” and listed prices for its diet-shots kits to its Facebook following.

Sickening.

Full article here.

In Liberty,
Michael Krieger

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2 Comments

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  1. More evidence that shows that their adverting system does not work.

  2. “HCG, a hormone produced during pregnancy, is approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a prescription drug for infertility. But the agency, in a 2011 news release headed “HCG Diet Products Are Illegal,” said HCG doesn’t help with weight loss and isn’t approved for over-the-counter sale for any purpose.”

    Sounds like terrist activity to me. Imagine nice American girls busting out in octuplets all over the place.

    We’re all OctoMom now.

    Gotta admit, them’s terrists with a sense a humor, I guess.

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