Facebook approves teen alcohol, drug, gambling ads

Occurred: May 2021

Research studies show Facebook approved adverts targeting teen kids interested in smoking, alcohol, gambling, and extreme weight loss. 

Using a fake account, Reset Australia discovered advertisers could target teenagers on user interest areas such as gambling, smoking, alcohol and dating status. Using a similar process, US-based Tech Transparency Project found Facebook approved ads for pills, eating disorders, and dating services for kids as young as 13 years old.

Reset Australia submitted its own advertisements in these interest areas. Facebook rejected two of its advertisements featuring regular cigarettes, but when it resubmitted the ads displaying electronic cigarettes, they were approved. The group believed the ads had passed the company’s internal checks.

Traditional advertising is tightly regulated, but the law has not kept pace with the explosion in social media, creating what Chris Cooper, Reset Australia executive director, called a “loophole” in the system.

Facebook subsequently announced that it would no longer allow advertisers to target interest-based ads at teens

Operator: Meta/Facebook
Developer: Meta/Facebook
Country: USA; Australia
Sector: Technology
Purpose: Review advertising
Technology: Advertising management system
Issue: Accuracy/reliability
Transparency: Governance; Black box

Page info
Type: Incident
Published: December 2021