Facebook Denies Targeting Youths Based On Emotional State

Facebook has denied targeting insecure youth as young as 14 years old who feel emotionally "overwhelmed" and "anxious" after The Australian reportedly gained access to a document showing advertisers how to reach this market segment.

On Monday in a blog post, Facebook called the premise of the article "misleading" and insisted the company "does not offer tools to target people based on their emotional state."

The analysis from Facebook, done by Australian researchers Andy Sinn and David Fernandez, was intended to help marketers understand how people express themselves on Facebook and not meant to target ads. It was based on anonymous and aggregated data.

"Facebook has an established process to review the research we perform," per the blog post. "This research did not follow that process, and we are reviewing the details to correct the oversight."

The more than 20-page report allegedly explained how Facebook could analyze posts, photos and interactions to help determine the emotional states of 6.4 million young Australians and New Zealanders, according to one media report.



Per the report, by monitoring posts, Facebook can estimate when teenagers feel worthless, useless, defeated, stupid, overwhelmed, insecure, stressed, anxious, or nervous.

For Facebook, the attempt to understand and interpret dialogue or the written word is not new. Researchers at Facebook AI Research (FAIR) spend a lot of time analyzing the effectiveness of dialogue and how people interact with each other and machines.  

Earlier this year in a post, Facebook Director of Applied Machine Learning Joaquin Quinonero Candela wrote about how researchers are building scalable systems to understand content. Identifying the content allows advertisers to better understand the behavior of the individual writing the post.

After all, ad targeting relies on identifying intent based on human behavior. 

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