It appears that Facebook has been accused of micotargeting conversion therapy ads promoting “sexual purity” to young gay users in the United Kingdom. In a recent investigation by the Telegraph, ads were found selling the idea that gay people might be turned straight. The ad “Why am I seeing this ad?” suggested that users were interested because they were interested in “gender issues.”
This is one of the ads, titled “Homosexuality Was My Identity,” and supposedly targeted to users who liked LGBTQ pages:
It is suggested that gayness is something to be overcome with the help of Jesus.
Tessa Ann Schwarz, who identifies as a lesbian, is one person who saw the ad.
“I don’t know why Facebook has permitted this group to target LGBTQ people, who have intentionally sought out community and education amongst peers, for shaming and hatred masked as love,” she told the Telegraph.
Alistair Ryder was shown an ad for the book Evangelical Man, Same-Sex Attraction, which is supposed to be a fun summer read and promotes celibacy. “There was nothing overtly homophobic about the ad I saw itself,” Ryder said, “but it was written in a way to try to appeal to people who may be depressed or self-loathing due to their sexuality.”
Now Facebook does not hand-approve such ads, and that’s the problem – how can Facebook regulate its automated targeted ad market, since it’s fully-automated?
Ryder and Schwarz both flagged the ads as inappropriate. At that time a moderator took action and removed them as they violated Facebook’s ad policy that bans any ad “that discriminates against harasses, provokes or disparages people.”
Griff Ferris of the UK civil rights group Big Brother watch say the process has some major flaws. “Targeted advertising is aggressive and manipulative, using the personal and private information to exploit people’s innermost fears, desires, and prejudices,” he told the Telegraph. “Therefore it must be restricted to protect people’s rights.”