Facebook is under fire after a document leaked that purports to show the social media company targets potentially vulnerable youth who "need a confidence boost" with targeted advertising.
The allegation revealed by an Australian newspaper was revealed after The Australian obtained internal documents that reportedly show how Facebook can exploit the moods and insecurities of teenagers using the popular online platform.
The document says that by monitoring posts, comments and other interactions on the site, Facebook's algorithm can determine when users are feeling "defeated," "overwhelmed," "stressed," "anxious," "nervous," "stupid," "silly," "useless" or a "failure."
The information is gathered through the use of a system known as "sentiment analysis" which could be used by advertisers to target Facebook users to buy something when they're potentially vulnerable. "Sentiment Analysis" can also be used to gain useful psychological insights into its users as young as 13.
Facebook's advertising division has quickly become one of the most profitable parts of Facebook's online dominance. Facebook is second only to Google in the $80 billion online advertising industry.
The document was put together by two Australian Facebook executives. Facebook didn't respond to a request for comment from the News.com.au, but did issue an apology and said they will conduct an investigation into the matter.
This isn't the first time Facebook has been discovered to be running experiments on its users. In 2012, Facebook ran an experiment on some of its users to see if altering its algorithm could affect the moods of groups of users.
Posts determined to be either negative, or positive were shown to a selected group to see if they could make them sad by showing more negative posts in user's feed. The experiment determined that Facebook could indeed manipulate a user's emotions (positive or negaitve) based on the types of stories that show up in your newsfeed.