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Meta gets likes for enhanced restrictions on ads targeting teenagers

By Rayya Al Muheisen - Jan 12,2023 - Last updated at Jan 12,2023

AMMAN — Experts are hailing Meta’s decision to tighten restrictions around the data made available to firms that produce advertisements targeting teenage users. 

The Facebook and Instagram parent company announced that as of February, advertisers will no longer be able see a user’s gender or the type of posts they engage with, according to a blog post from Meta. 

Under the enhanced restrictions, only a user’s age and location will be used for targeted advertising, said Meta.

Previously, Meta removed the ability for advertisers to target teens based on their interest and activities.

“Teens’ previous engagements across our apps, such as the Instagram posts and Facebook pages they have liked, will not inform what ads they see,” Meta said. 

Additionally, Meta said that teens will also be able to tell the platforms the types of ads they would rather not see, and learn more about how ads work on the apps. 

Sociologist Hussein Khuzai praised the decision, and said that all data accessed by underage users should be strictly monitored and if necessary, restricted. 

“Teenagers like to experience new things. They’re more likely to make impulsive decisions and they’re not fully aware of the consequences,” Khuzai added. 

Teenagers’ decision-making process differs than that of adults. Therefore, having teen’s personal data hidden from advertising companies should “deny unwanted interactions with certain social groups and advertising companies”, Khuzai said. 

Meta’s implementation of this decision is more effective than having parents restrict their teenagers’ access, Khuzai said. 

“Inappropriate ads can cause as much harm as offensive or abusive content,” Khuzai noted. 

Meta also noted that unlike adults, teenagers are not as equipped to make decisions about how their online data is used for advertising, particularly when it comes to showing them products available for purchase.

Social media and marketing expert Ayah Kilani told The Jordan Times that social media giants like Meta generate the majority of their profit from advertising.

“In order for ads to be effective, marketing firms have to target the specific demographics that will most likely interact and engage with the ad’s content,” Kilani added. 

After Meta’s decision to restrict marketing firms’ access to user information, marketing companies might be considering shifting their campaigns to other social media platforms like Tiktok and Snapchat, which have a larger teenage presence, Kilani said. 

“Interests, demographics and previous post engagement help marketers target their desired audience,” Kilani added. 

Despite the recent decision, advertisers on Meta platforms can continue to target billions of users based on a range of options such as age, occupation and location, Kilani said. 

Parents have criticised social media sites for their inaction in limiting the sort of advertising content that is displayed to younger users.

“Unsuitable advertisements and content can hurt teenagers just as much as disrespectful or abusive posts,” Haneen Jafar, mother of two boys, told The Jordan Times. 

Restricting marketing companies from viewing certain data will ultimately lead to a greater quantity of age-sensitive content for children and teenagers, Jafar added.

According to Jafar, “restricting the younger generation from accessing social media is impossible from the parent’s perspective”.

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