Reset Australia Report Reveals Facebook Still Not Protecting Children from Gambling Ads

Posted on: November 16, 2021, 11:34h. 

Last updated on: November 16, 2021, 11:56h.

Over the past several years, Facebook has faced backlash for not doing enough to protect children from harmful ads, such as those related to gambling. The company has repeatedly said it was improving its technology and processes to overcome these concerns, but apparently isn’t making much progress. A new study by Reset Australia shows that the same issues that were present six months ago are still alive on the social media platform.

Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, seen here at an event for Facebook. He has repeatedly promised to change how the social media platform monitors online content. However, the company is facing new scrutiny in Australia for not following through. (Image: The Independent)

Facebook was recently found to have harvested data from teenagers to send them “stalker ads,” which target specific users. Reset Australia has warned that Facebook cannot be trusted to help with the draft of children’s data codes in the country.

Reset Australia released a report in April showing how Facebook allowed advertisers to target young people on inappropriate age interests. The platform announced in July that it would end this practice after hearing from advocates for young people.

Facebook’s Unending Rhetoric

“The only thing that’s changed is that advertisers themselves are no longer able to specify that they want to target children interested in [weight loss], for example. But Facebook’s AI will do that for them instead. Given the power of their AI, this may actually be worse for children,” Reset Australia’s director of data policy Dr. Rys Farthing said.

Reset Australia’s research has revealed that conversion APIs like app SPK or Facebook Pixel, two keystones of Facebook’s machine learning Ad Delivery system, are still active on teens’ accounts. This means that teens still receive targeted advertising.

This is hardly a precautionary approach to advertising for children. Instead, it means the most private, intimate details of young people are still being harvested to fuel Facebook’s intrusive advertising system. All they’ve changed is the user-facing interface for advertisers, but not changed their system at all,” said Reset Australia’s report on Facebook.

Facebook, which is currently undergoing a name change to Meta, has prioritized profits and not changed its systems for better outcomes for children, critics claim. Other platforms, such as YouTube, have banned gambling ads from their platforms in Australia. This is in line with a shift in the country’s approach to responsible gambling, which has called upon public companies to help formulate solutions that will keep potentially harmful ads away from children.

Reset Australia asserts that Facebook has not changed its systems to benefit children. It is instead putting its own interests first. They use the same data they do for their algorithms, and as a result, are not able to act in the best interests of children.

Australia Clamps Down on Gambling Advertising

This research is the result of a federal government privacy review that revealed plans to develop a code in the industry that will better protect children’s rights to data. Reset Australia has stated that Facebook can’t now be trusted to help create a code that places children’s interests before all else.

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,” the report adds.

Reset Australia and YouGov recently conducted a poll of 400 young people in Australia. It revealed that 82% were uncomfortable with the ads they received, and that 67% want a ban on such surveillance advertising.

Advertising is always big business for any industry. But hard lines are being drawn to reduce the number of gambling ads seen on all mediums. This isn’t specific to Australia, with the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain and the US, among others, following suit. Critics of such practices warn that if companies in the industry and others that can control ads don’t step up to be more responsible, regulators are definitely going to make the call for them.