Saturday, March 01, 2014
Facebook has trouble filtering inappropriate ads for minors, leading to dangerous "rating" of profile pictures
The Wall Street Journal has a disturbing story Feb. 28: “Nude Webcams and Diet Drugs: The Facebook Ads Teens Aren’t Supposed to See”, by Jeff Elder, in print, also online (paywall) and this video, which appears to be free:
It has been very difficult for Facebook to filter ads that would not be appropriate for minors, partly because of the complexity of the way some of the apps work. The issues remind one of the debate over filtering at the COPA trial in 2006, but with much more complexity.
Some apps would send a teen’s picture to other users, often grown men. And some ads resulted in adult men rating teenagers (usually young women, but males were possible too) for attractiveness, a situation that Elder points out should not be going on. (Remember, in the opening sequence of the movie “The Social Network”, the app developed by the fictionalized Mark Zuckerberg invited college students to rate paired co-eds as to who was the “hottest”. Minors should not be the subjects of such contests.
Reiterate: the more teens can accomplish in “the real world”, the better off they are. That requires parents, schools, churches or worship places, cooperative businesses, perhaps scouting, and so on. That gets a little harder these days where people have become more insular and where there are home security concerns that makes outreach harder. Oh, yes, the Girl Scout Cookie selling was very conspicuous in the bitter cold at the Ballston Metro yesterday.
I don't have a real feel for how well other ad-serving platforms can protect minors for inappropriate products. I do sometimes see these on my own blogs. That issue needs more attention, to be sure. I have not so far screened who the advterisers are, but I wonder if I have a duty to do so, given this WSJ story and its future implications. It is possible for me to monitor this.