Facebook and Child Exploitation

The moment Facebook first made the sensible and responsible age requirement rules they have been trying to soften, if not repeal them. The age restriction guidelines exist for the safety and wellbeing of underaged children. Yet we are constantly confronted with the reality that Facebook is desperate to recruit the underaged demographic.

The latest news sees Facebook advertisements target the very children they are supposed to be turning away:

An alliance of consumer rights groups on Monday pressed Facebook not to aim advertisements at preteen children or track their activities online if it formally opens its site to them.

Facebook has millions of underage users who claim to be over the required age of 13, and the company has had discussions with some advocacy groups over how to keep children safe on the site if they insist on signing up.

The topic of whether children under 13 should be on Facebook is hugely contested. One side argues that under no circumstances should young children be permitted on a social networking site, and another argues for an array of restrictions and conditions on how they can use the site.

The groups that sent the letter on Monday to Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of Facebook, include Consumers Union, the Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Action and the Consumer Federation of America. They called on Facebook to refrain from tracking children under 13 both on the Facebook site and on other sites that have Facebook widgets, such as the “like” button. In addition, they called on Facebook to enable parents to monitor and review their preteen children’s activities, offer parents “granular control” over every application they use on the Facebook platform and keep children’s account settings as private as possible.

The letter read: “We want assurances that any space created for children under the age of 13 on the site is safe, parent-guided and controlled, and, most importantly, free of ads.”

Advertising is not the only reason Facebook would want to allow under-13s on its site. It could widen its user base, guard against children becoming attached to another social network, and potentially build a trove of information on users as they grow into adulthood. By developing special conditions for them, the company could also protect itself from a federal regulation that requires companies that gather information about children under 13 to obtain written consent from their parents; those regulations are being revised.

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