Major civil society groups call on Facebook to stop targeting children with ads and surveillance

A global coalition of over 40 civil society groups, including Amnesty International and ParentsTogether, called on Facebook to stop surveillance advertising aimed at children, accusing the technology giant of misleading the public about its practices when it comes to youth.

Dozens of children’s advocacy organizations, as well as tech and privacy groups, in a Tuesday letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg pushed for the platform to stop targeting children, particularly using artificial intelligence to deliver specific ads to young people who are considered vulnerable.

Facebook’s global head of safety, Antigone Davis, said during a Senate hearing in September that the platform has “very limited advertising to young people,” which the coalition said was “misleading, to both the public and the Senate.”

The coalition is questioning the social media giant’s claims regarding advertising to children because of revelations brought forward by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen in October, along with a recent Australian poll that found that 82% of teenagers ages 16 and 17 have come across ads on the platform that are so targeted that they felt uncomfortable .


“I’m very suspicious that personalized ads are still not being delivered to teenagers on Instagram because the algorithms learn correlations,” Haugen said during a Senate hearing in October. “They learn interactions where your party ad may still go to kids interested in partying because Facebook almost certainly has a ranking model in the background that says this person wants more party-related content.”

The public has become increasingly concerned about the effects of social media on children and teenagers. A recent poll showed 88% of parents in the United States believe “the practice of tracking and targeting kids and teens with ads based on their behavioral profiles” should be prohibited .

A majority of voters also favor a tax on the profits that Big Tech companies generate from the collection of personal user data in order to reduce the incentive to collect this type of data unfairly, according to a poll from September.

Over 40 leading human rights and tech advocacy groups also launched a major campaign last month to stop Facebook from unfairly harvesting user data and using surveillance-driven algorithms, the first coordinated grassroots push to do so following Haugen’s whistleblower revelations.

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