Facebook Shows Teens Ads for Pills and Nude Webcams, Among Other Inappropriate Things

WSJ study shows just how hard it is to properly target ads

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We all know that Facebook ads can be annoying, but according to a Wall Street Journal article, they can can also have precarious implications. 

The WSJ reports that young teens are regularly exposed to age inappropriate ads, peddling everything from diet pills to gun holsters to nude web cams. One 14-year-old liked a Facebook ad related to fashion modeling only to later realize that it was an ad for adult webcam models, who often pose nude. And the issue isn’t only that the teen was taken to the company’s website, but clicking “like” also gave it consent to use her images in future advertisements for the webcam. The WSJ reports that 13-17 year-olds were the largest demographic that went to the webcam’s Facebook page.

“We take the quality of ads on Facebook very seriously,” Facebook told the WSJ in a statement. “Because of the enormous volume of ads under review on a daily basis, we invest significant resources in both automated and manual tools to enforce our policies, along with tools to educate advertisers.”

Following the article’s publication, Facebook made it clear that it was not happy with the implications of the piece. “We’re disappointed that the Wall Street Journal decided to run an entire story focused on a cherry picked number of ads on Facebook,” the social network said to CBS in a statement.

While Facebook said Wednesday that it has made progress targeting users for advertising, clearly some work still needs to be done. But is it even possible? With so many users (some of whom are lying about their age) and advertisers using Facebook’s automated system (as very few Facebook advertisers deal with human beings), it’s understandably difficult for Facebook to be aware of everything that’s happening on its site.

“I think perhaps the standard of care should be higher for kids who are 13 to 17-years-old,” WSJ business editor Dennis Berman told CBS News.