Facebook will impose more control over the types of ads children as young as 13 are exposed to on Instagram and other platforms as new research finds Australian liquor companies are not blocking their social media content from reach young users.
Facebook announced Wednesday that, starting a few weeks ago, Instagram would stop marketing to teens under 18 based on their interests. Only their age, gender and location can be used to target ads to them.
Lobby group Reset Australia recently said it could set up ads aimed at teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17 based on interests they had expressed, including smoking, extreme weight loss and gambling.
The changes will apply to Facebook, Instagram and Messenger. In a blog post, Facebook said that while anyone can manually opt out of targeted ads, the company has decided to do so automatically for children.
“We have heard from youth advocates that young people may not be well equipped to make these decisions. We agree with them, which is why we’re taking a more cautious approach to how advertisers can reach young people with ads. »
The reforms were announced the same day a new article was published in the journal Public Health Research and Practice, which found that Australia’s biggest alcohol companies were failing to stop alcohol advertising from reach children on social media, including Instagram.
The article examined the use of social media age restriction controls by 195 major alcohol brands on Instagram and Facebook, and found that many failed to protect their content from children.
The 195 brands were owned by nine companies and the search identified 153 Facebook accounts, 84 of which were based in Australia, and 151 Instagram accounts, of which 77 were based in Australia.
The authors found that 28% of Instagram accounts and 5% of Facebook accounts did not have age limit controls enabled.
“Compliance with industry marketing code requirements for age limit controls is inconsistent among the largest liquor companies operating in Australia,” the document said. “The industry-run regulatory system does not prevent children’s access to alcoholic content on social media sites.”
The industry self-regulatory system requires companies to enable age restrictions on social networking sites to prevent children from accessing alcohol-related content.
The code, called the Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code, is industry-managed and only binding on signatories. All companies in the study had signed the code.
Study co-author Julia Stafford, also chair of the Cancer Council’s alcohol task force, said it was clear companies were not following the code.
“The alcohol industry has demonstrated an inability to effectively control its own marketing,” Stafford said.
“Statutory government regulation, which includes an effective monitoring system, is the necessary step to ensure that children’s exposure to alcohol advertising is minimized.”
Reset Australia chief executive Chris Cooper said Facebook’s change did not limit the company’s collection of profiling data on teenagers.
“Facebook isn’t saying it will stop profiling children based on questionable interests, just that it won’t let advertisers target them based on them. There’s no commitment that Facebook itself will not continue to use this profiling for its own purposes,” he said.
“This only underscores the need for meaningful public oversight over how these platforms collect and use youth data. Big tech needs regulation so it can operate in a way that meets public standards, we shouldn’t continue to let it make its own rules.
Other changes announced by Facebook include people under 16, who create new accounts will be set up with a private account by default. And those who have already joined and have a public account will be informed of the benefits of going private.
Eight out of 10 people under the age of 18 already choose, by default, to have their account private.
Instagram will also flag “potentially suspicious accounts” used by adults that have been blocked or reported by teens, and block those accounts from seeing teen accounts in explores, reels, or suggested accounts for you.
If they search for usernames, they won’t be able to follow teen accounts, leave comments, or see comments from others on those accounts.
These changes will initially roll out in the US, Australia, France, UK, and Japan, with more countries to follow.
In March, it was reported that Facebook was considering developing a version of Instagram for children under 13. The company could not say this week whether plans have moved forward since then.