Business Insider

Facebook Says It Shouldn’t Have Told an Advertiser How to Reach Insecure Teens

Mark Zuckerberg in April 2017 in San Jose, California. 

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

Facebook has responded to a report by The Australian that said the company showed at least one advertiser how to reach emotionally “insecure” and vulnerable teens on its network.

A 23-page presentation shared with “one of Australia’s top four banks” showed Facebook’s ability to understand when users as young as 14 are feeling emotions like “stressed,” “defeated,” “overwhelmed,” and “anxious,” according to The Australian.

“Anticipatory emotions are more likely to be expressed early in the week, while reflective emotions increase on the weekend,” according to the leaked Facebook presentation. “Monday-Thursday is about building confidence; the weekend is for broadcasting achievements.”


In a company blog post, Facebook called the sharing of the research an “oversight” and said that it didn’t follow internal review guidelines. Facebook also said that the data was collected anonymously and that it has never been used to target ads.


“Facebook does not offer tools to target people based on their emotional state,” the company said on Sunday. “The analysis done by an Australian researcher was intended to help marketers understand how people express themselves on Facebook. It was never used to target ads and was based on data that was anonymous and aggregated.”

A Facebook spokesperson declined to comment further to Business Insider on Monday or say whether the research had been shared outside of Australia.


Even if Facebook hasn’t allowed advertisers to target young people based on their emotions, its sharing of related research highlights the kind of data the company collects about its nearly 2 billion users.

Facebook has come under fire for overstepping its ad targeting capabilities and collection of user data in the past. The social network recently made changes to prevent discriminatory targeting of specific ads based on race. And Facebook came under fire in 2014 when its researchers tweaked the News Feed’s algorithms to manipulate users’ emotions.

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