Social Issues

Leaked documents show Facebook targeted “depressed” youth for financial gain

Earlier today The Australian reported that leaked documents show Facebook exploiting young “depressed” youth for financial gain.

Excerpt from news.com.au:

The confidential document dated this year detailed how by monitoring posts, comments and interactions on the site, Facebook can figure out when people as young as 14 feel “defeated”, “overwhelmed”, “stressed”, “anxious”, “nervous”, “stupid”, “silly”, “useless”, and a “failure”.

Such information gathered through a system dubbed sentiment analysis could be used by advertisers to target young Facebook users when they are potentially more vulnerable.

Facebook has issued an apology but also responded to The Australian with this comment:

“The data on which this research is based was aggregated and presented consistent with applicable privacy and legal protections, including the removal of any personally identifiable information,” 

The legality of this is still up in the air. Facebook does warn you in their data policy that they may use information like this.

In 2012 they were caught trying to manipulate the emotional of people who use facebook.

For one week in 2012, Facebook ran an experiment on some of its users in which it altered the algorithms it used determine which status updates appeared in the news feed of nearly 700,000 randomly selected users based on the post’s emotional content.

Posts were determined to be either negative or positive and Facebook wanted to see if it could make the selected group sad by showing them more negative posts in their feed. It deemed it could.

The results were published in a scientific journal but Facebook was criticized by those concerned about the potential of the company to engage in social engineering for commercial benefit.

Facebook is clearly in the business of profiting off their users. They are aligning with the establishment to censor news and use the data they acquire from you to profit off it.

This should be another example of why we need to be careful with what we put online and that we don’t become overly attached to social media. People who get addicted or become too emotionally involved in social media are risking being exploited by CEO’s that care little about their users and their privacy.

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