Children are shown as ‘untapped’ wealth in leaked Facebook documents

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Thursday, March 25, 2021.
Photo: Uncredited (AP) – According to business research, children aged 10 to 12 represent a “valuable yet underserved audience.” The Wall Street Journal released the second installment of its “Facebook Files” investigative series on Tuesday, delving even deeper into the social media platform’s efforts to target and recruit young children.

According to internal papers obtained by the Journal, Facebook established a dedicated team to research youngsters and consider methods to commercialize them. Tweens, or youngsters between the ages of 10 and 12, are described in one document as a “promising yet untapped audience.” Another suggestion is to use “playdates” to fuel Facebook’s “growth.”

A March 2021 memo quoted by the publication states that Facebook is dealing with “global adolescent penetration” and cautions that “acquisition” of teen users “appears to be slowing down.” According to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook anticipates its adolescent viewership to drop by another 45 percent by 2023.

Facebook’s profitable ad-driven business makes virtually all of its money from its users’ data, which it then utilizes to construct extensive behavior profiles that are used to “micro-target” advertising and analyze their performance. Despite the fact that federal law bans the collection of data from children under the age of 13, Facebook has spent years attempting to persuade youngsters to use its services as soon as they are old enough to be monitored.

According to a Facebook document quoted by the Journal, children as young as six years old are “getting on the internet.” Imagine a Facebook experience tailored to teenagers, it claims.

Facebook said this week that it was postponing the introduction of a “Instagram Kids” app. The declaration came after another Journal story revealed that Facebook was aware, based on internal studies, that Instagram was having detrimental effects on the mental health of certain adolescent users.

“We exacerbate body image difficulties for one in every three young females,” according to the study, which also noted that some teen girls have linked their suicide thoughts to their experiences on the site. Facebook later stated the statement from the study was inaccurate, and that the findings only related to “those teenage females who told us they were having body image concerns and indicated that using Instagram made them feel worse—not one in three of all teenage girls.”

Following the publication of the study, Democratic legislators called on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to shut down the Instagram Kids initiative, claiming that the program “poses serious dangers to young people’s wellbeing.”

Facebook has disputed the Journal’s portrayal of its Instagram study, but has so far refused to make it accessible for review—and has attempted to stifle independent research into the inner workings of its platforms in general. At a conference on Monday, Facebook’s policy head, Nick Clegg, said the firm will share two internal PowerPoint decks outlining its findings “both to Congress and then to the public in the coming days.”

The papers allude to children as a “valuable” and “untapped” population, which contradicts Facebook’s stated reasons for launching a kids-focused service: According to Facebook, children under the age of 13 are more likely to try to join Facebook and Instagram anyway while lying about their age. According to the firm, developing an app particularly for children will assist to protect kids online by separating them from adults.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s Senate subcommittee will hold a hearing on the conclusions of Facebook’s unreleased internal study on Thursday at 10:30 a.m. ET. Antigone Davis, Facebook’s global head of safety, is expected to testify.

“This hearing will look at the harmful impacts of Facebook and Instagram on young people and others, and it will be one of several that will pose serious questions about whether Big Tech firms are deliberately harming people and hiding that knowledge,” Blumenthal said.