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Facebook targeting students through advertisement

Reports have found that Facebook and other social media websites are targeting insecure teenagers through advertisements. The allegation was revealed the morning of May 1 by The Australian.

Social media targeting is a method of optimizing advertisements by using your profile data to deliver ads directly to your account. Social media targeting refers to the process of matching social network users to target groups that have been specified by advertisers.

Facebook is now under fire for using social media to target vulnerable youths who “needed a boost of confidence,” exploiting the insecurities and moods of teenagers.

Data collected over the years showed how monitoring posts, comments, and interactions on the site allowed Facebook to figure out how people as young as 14 years old feel. Some feelings they were able to determine are “depression,” “silliness,” “overwhelmed,” and even “stressed.”

Freshman Rachel Youssef says, “I feel that some advertisement is offensive because if I want to lose weight I’ll find my own way and I don’t need anyone else to tell me what to do or where to go.”

A test was conducted in 2012 on some Facebook users to see if altering their advertisement could effect the moods of a group of users. Negative and positive posts were determined and then shown to a selected group to see if they could make the user sad by showing more negative posts on their feed.

The experiment displayed that Facebook can indeed manipulate users’ emotions, both positive and negative, based on what they posted.

About 48 hours after the Australian published the document on Facebook using social media targeting, Facebook issued a statement denying culpability, though the company admitted to the existence of such document. It claimed that the research was shared with advertisers, but said the article was “misleading.”

According to the Australian, about 6.4 million high schoolers, tertiary students, and young Australians and New Zealanders in the workforce are being targeting on Facebook.

A further insight into what is contained in the 23-paged document also showed that the social media giant made a presentation for one of the leading banks in Australia where it showed how the $415 billion advertising-driven giant has built a database of users on the network made up of 1.9 million high schoolers.

Facebook did not deny such document when contacted The Australian.

“We have opened an investigation to understand the process failure and improve our oversight. We will undertake disciplinary and other processes as appropriate,” a Facebook spokeswoman said in a statement sent to The Australian.

Not only is Facebook doing this, but Instagram is doing something very similar. Instagram monitors yours posts and, depending on what you like, post, or even search, designs specific advertisements for your feed.

Freshman Sami Hughes says, “I’ve seen a couple ads on Instagram that normally relate to what I post and like and, at times, it can be annoying or helpful.”

Most social networks allow publishers to apply a level of targeting or custom visibility to organic posts.

How do you feel about social media targeting?

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