Washington (November 22, 2021) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and Representatives Lori Trahan (MA-03) and Kathy Castor (FL-14), members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, today wrote to Facebook demanding answers after new research suggests that the company continues to facilitate targeted advertising to teens based on young users’ browsing history and preferences. The research comes after Facebook’s July 2021 announcement that it would significantly limit the criteria by which advertisers may target teens on its platforms to age, location, and gender.
In her testimony before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Facebook Global Head of Safety, Antigone Davis, reiterated that policy: “We have very limited advertising to young people. You can only actually now target a young person based on their gender, age, or location.” However, the new research indicates Facebook itself targets ads to users under 18, using a machine learning system powered by users’ personal data, including browsing history.
“Facebook’s announcement that it would limit ad targeting to users under the age of 18 implicitly acknowledged the harms that targeted advertisements pose to young people, and Facebook explicitly stated it was committed to taking a ‘more precautionary approach’ in its advertising practices when it announced its policy change. Unfortunately, new research suggests that harmful advertising practices on Facebook continue,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
A copy of the letter can be found HERE.
In April, Senators Markey and Blumenthal and Representatives Castor and Trahan wrote to Zuckerberg regarding Facebook’s announcement that the company was “exploring” plans to develop a version of Instagram for children and expressed concerns about Facebook’s past failures to protect children on Facebook’s Messenger Kids app. In May, after the company failed to make meaningful commitments to protect kids online, the lawmakers released a statement calling on Facebook to abandon its plans for the children’s platform.