Thursday, October 21, 2021

Report: Facebook anti-ads software often makes errors

Facebook says it’s working to tighten rules for allowing ads for children younger than 13.

Teenagers who visit Instagram may be encountering inappropriate advertising — including, according to a report, ads from just 7 of the biggest advertisers, including Nestle, Walmart and McDonald’s.

New York Magazine reported Wednesday that the software Facebook uses to flag ads for kids being shown by parents fell asleep or, in some cases, was riddled with mistakes.

“With 1.9 billion people, Facebook is always going to be a difficult place to screen for things and clearly identify them,” said Brendan Budlick, a psychologist who leads the academic program for the Cyberspace Institute at the University of New Hampshire. “How do you devise a system that meets both those goals?”

Photographs of anyone younger than 13 might set off parental warning signs that might not be picked up by a separate type of photo generated by the program, according to the magazine’s report. The software, known as Sponsored Stories, has been used by both advertisers and news outlets such as BuzzFeed.

Facebook responded to the report by saying it was taking actions to prevent similar problems in the future. “We are learning from this case and working on a set of changes so people can learn more about these tools, how they operate and the control they give people to decide what types of ads are shown,” spokesman Nathaniel Gleicher said in an email.

Among the changes that Facebook is working on, Gleicher said, are eliminating the ability for advertisers to upload new photos of kids or remove the ability for teen users to share photos without their parents’ permission.

Bloomberg contributed to this story.

Latest article