A leaked document from Facebook's Australia office, marked confidential and authored by two Australian Facebook executives, purported to show potential advertisers how to target to teens as young as 14 when they were feeling both good and confident, and targeting "moments when young people need a confidence boost." The document was first reported on by The Australian newspaper, and Consumerist notes that "The document apparently outlines an array of teenagers’ emotional states that the company claims it can target based on how kids are using the service, including, 'anxious,' 'defeated,' 'insecure,' 'overwhelmed,' 'stressed,' and 'worthless,' among other negative emotions." Reportedly, the document was part of a pitch being prepared for a major Australian bank, and was dated in 2017.
The document was apparently geared toward helping advertisers to pinpoint the best moments to target teens and young adults in the workforce in Australia and New Zealand, also noting, as Ars Technica reports, that "earlier in the week, teens post more about 'anticipatory emotions' and 'building confidence,' while weekend teen posts contain more 'reflective emotions' and 'achievement broadcasting.'
As CNet reports, Facebook is an "advertisers' goldmine" with some 5 million companies vying to get their products into our news feeds each month. But Facebook's own policies (as well as Australian advertising law, per Mashable) prohibit the use of its somewhat controversial research into users' emotional states for the purpose of advertising. This was laid out in a protocol that the company finalized just last year following earlier dustups over the ethics of the research generally.
Facebook has issued a statement saying "This research did not follow [our established] process, and we are reviewing the details to correct the oversight.” The company also says, "Facebook does not offer tools to target people based on their emotional state. The analysis done by an Australian researcher was intended to help marketers understand how people express themselves on Facebook." And, assuring us that no one's privacy was violates, they say, "[The research] was never used to target ads and was based on data that was anonymous and aggregated."
There has been some anecdotal suggestion in recent years that teens, at least in the US, were fleeing Facebook in droves in favor of other social media platforms not inhabited by their parents, but research has not shown that to be the case. As of early 2015, the Pew Research Center found that 71 percent of teens still reported using Facebook regularly, with Instagram and Snapchat usage coming in second and third, respectively. And a new survey published in January of 2017 suggested that teens' Facebook usage has only risen over the past several years though their percent figures are lower, showing 65 percent using the platform as of November 2016.
Previously: Most Teens Actually Still Using Facebook