Meta expands targeted ad restrictions for teen users

Advertisers won’t be able to target teen users on Facebook and Instagram based on their engagement on the apps starting next month, Meta announced Tuesday. 

The change is part of a series of updates Meta is making in the next couple of months for teen users on its social media apps. 

The update means a teen’s previous engagement, such as posts and pages they have liked, will not inform the types of ads they see on the apps. 

The update rolling out in February will also remove gender as an option for advertisers to reach teens. Meta previously removed the ability for advertisers to target teens based on their interest and activities. The company said age and location will now be the only information about a teen user that it will use to target ads. 

Meta will also launch Ad Topic Controls, which will let teen users choose to “see less” ads about a topic, or to choose “no preference” on a specific topic. 

Topics already restricted for teen users, such as alcohol and weight loss products, will be defaulted on to “see less” so that teens are not able to opt into that content. 

The updates are the latest Meta has launched since facing scrutiny over its impact on teen users, especially after whistleblower Frances Haugen came forward with disclosures alleging the company had internal research indicating its products negatively impacted teen’s mental health.

Meta pushed back on Haugen’s accusations when she first came forward in October 2021. CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company was being “mischaracterized” by Haugen’s disclosures and her testimony before Congress. 

In the year since, though, bipartisan momentum has built on the federal level and in state governments to increase regulation on kids’ online safety. A couple of bipartisan bills advanced out of the Senate Commerce Committee last Congress but failed to pass before the end of the year, but given the bipartisan support may gain support again.

California passed its own kids’ online safety bill, but it is being challenged by tech groups that allege it violates free speech protections.

Tags Frances Haugen Meta

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