Facebook In Trouble Yet Again After Exposing Minors To Gambling Ads
Facebook has reportedly marked hundreds of thousands of children as interested in gambling and alcohol products and services. This could potentially expose them to inappropriate advertisements they are not supposed to have access to and put them under unnecessary pressure.
This is one of the findings that came to light due to a joint investigation conducted by the Danish Broadcasting Corporation and The Guardian.
Facebook’s ad tools marked 740,000 minors as being interested in gambling, while another 940,000 are tagged as being interested in alcoholic beverages. This leaves children potentially at the risk of being bombarded with advertisements about gambling and alcohol, something that the social networking service considers “restricted content“.
Facebook has put in place specific policies in relation to these types of ads, requiring them to comply with established industry codes, licenses, approvals, applicable local laws and guidelines, including age criteria. Gambling ads that promote lotteries or real-money games must only be shown to people 18 years or older with prior written permission.
However, Facebook only relies on an automated review process which sometimes fails to properly filter ads shown to the audience. This makes it possible for minors to be exposed to these ads, especially since Facebook does not normally take into account age or reason when coming up with interest categories. Despite policies that are supposed to protect children from potential harm, there are numerous breaches which often go unreported.
Facebook Responds To Children Being Targeted
The social media company has been in hot water recently for the way it handles minors on its platform. It previously allowed ads for gun accessories to target children and only banned them from being shown to minors in 2018, in wake of deadly school shootings and public protests regarding gun control.
Facebook also proceeded to launch a Messenger Kids app despite concerns raised by child health advocates. In July, a flaw in the app’s programming and design reportedly allowed children to talk to unauthorised users in group chats – defeating the app’s main purpose of preventing kids from talking to strangers.
Commenting on the result of the latest investigation, a representative from Facebook said the company prohibits alcohol and gambling ads from reaching minors on the online platform, adding that they’re working closely with regulators to come up with guidance for marketers in order to help them reach their target audiences in a responsible manner.