Facebook knows when teens feel worthless
Facebook prepared for a presentation with advertisers by outlining its ability to determine when teenagers feel “worthless”, “defeated” and “insecure”, according to a leaked report compiled by two of the company’s top executives.
Documents handed to The Australian newspaper allegedly state that Facebook has the ability to analyse posts to gauge the emotional state of its young users. The site can also apparently track how these emotions fluctuate over time.
“Anticipatory emotions are more likely to be expressed early in the week, while reflective emotions increase on the weekend,” the report states. “Monday-Thursday is about building confidence; the weekend is for broadcasting achievements.”
The full presentation, which hasn’t been published by The Australian, is reportedly authored by two of Facebook’s leading Australian executives: David Fernandez and Andy Sinn. According to the newspaper, it was put together for one of the country’s top banks and details the site’s use of “internal Facebook data” not available to the public.
Facebook has responded by saying it does not “offer tools to target people based on their emotional state”, and that the presentation was “intended to help marketers understand how people express themselves.” According to The Guardian, an internal Facebook message thread seen by the site derides the article, saying it was “written by a journalist who writes inflammatory articles […] every Monday”.
Later, Facebook added that the site “has an established process to review the research we perform”, and that “this research did not follow that process, and we are reviewing the details to correct the oversight.”
Whether or not Facebook was explicitly marketing its ability to target users with advertisements based on emotional state, the revelation is a damning, depressing glimpse at how social networks can leverage the emotions of young people to aid commercial pitches.
Nor is this the first time Facebook has been accused of taking a callous stance towards the emotions of its users. In 2014, it was revealed that the site had been involved in a secret study of around 689,000 people, in which academics were allowed to change the order of newsfeeds as part of a psychological experiment. Critics called the study unethical; Facebook apologised and laid out new guidelines for research projects.