Facebook Still Allegedly Not Protecting Children From Gambling Ads

  • Facebook committed in July to change the way in which advertisers could target children
  • Reset Australia claims Facebook did not follow through with its promise to make changes
  • Children have allegedly seen ads that promote gambling, smoking, and alcohol
  • Reset Australia believes that Facebook cannot be trusted
  • Australia has numerous restrictions in place when it comes to gambling-related ads
Facebook logos, frown emojis, and Australian flags
Facebook is facing accusations that it has not made the changes it promised regarding the targeting of children by gambling advertisers. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Lots of uncertainty about changes

Facebook is facing accusations in Australia that it is still tracking children for ad targeting purposes, allowing pro-gambling messages to get through to underage people. Reset Australia originally completed research on the matter and published a report in April. It has now completed some follow-up research alongside Global Action Plan and Fairplay. They claim that Facebook has apparently not made changes that it had previously committed to regarding advertising.

Facebook announced in July that it was going to curtail the ways in which advertisers could target children. This change would “only allow advertisers to target ads to people under 18 (or older in certain countries) based on their age, gender and location.” This meant that other options like targeting based on the activity of young people on certain apps and websites, as well as their interests would no longer be permitted.

Facebook’s artificial intelligence systems are still gathering behavioral data from children

However, Reset Australia’s research claims that Facebook’s artificial intelligence systems are still gathering behavioral data from children. Facebook has denied that it is still utilizing the tracking data to allow for personalized ads targeting people who are younger than 18 years old.

Dangerous ads

The original report from Reset Australia claimed that Facebook had been harvesting the data of young people and allowing advertisers to use “stalker ads” in order to target this audience. These types of ads are based on the interests of the individual and often promote gambling, alcohol, smoking, and extreme weight loss. Stalker ads target vulnerable audiences with the aim of profiting at the consumer’s expense. Reset Australia believes that Facebook is putting its interests first and is not acting in the best interests of young people.

A recent poll that YouGov and Reset Australia conducted among 400 young Australians showed that 82% of them were not comfortable with ads they were seeing, with 67% being in favor of banning surveillance advertising.

The Australian government has plans to create an industry code that would help to improve protections regarding the use of young people’s data. Reset Australia now believes that Facebook cannot be trusted to help develop this code. The report stated: “Facebook has been caught red-handed using children’s data to target them with ads that they will be vulnerable to. They can’t be trusted to draft a code designed to protect children and their data.”

Curtailing the promotion of gambling

Gambling-related advertising as a whole is a hot topic at the moment. Many countries around the world – including Spain, Italy, Germany, Australia, and the UK – have been cracking down on these types of ads.

Some of the restrictions in place in Australia include a whistle-to-whistle ban on gambling ads during live sports, as well on incentives for people to sign up for gambling accounts. Many people in the country are calling for a more widespread curtailment of gambling-related ads, including a potential blanket ban.

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