FACEBOOK ADVERTISERS KNOW YOU’RE GAY
Targeted ads aren’t a surprise; ads targeting your sexual preference can be, though, especially when they seem to have nothing to do with it.
In a study (link opens PDF) released Thursday by Microsoft and the Max Planck Institute in Germany, researchers found that sexual preference, location and user demographics and interests all affect Facebook ads.
Researchers created accounts for a lesbian, a gay man, two straight women and two straight men with otherwise identical profile information. They found a “measurable distance” between the ads targeted to gay and straight profiles. Significantly, not all gay-targeted ads featured obviously gay content; exactly half of the ads shown to gay men did not actually use the word “gay” anywhere in the text.
Alarmingly, we found ads where the ad text was completely neutral to sexual preference (e.g. for a nursing degree in a medical college in Florida) that were targeted exclusively to gay men. The danger with such ads, unlike the gay bar ad where the target demographic is blatantly obvious, is that the user reading the ad text would have no idea that by clicking it he would reveal to the advertiser both his sexual-preference and a unique identiﬁer (cookie, IP address, or email address if he signs up on the advertiser’s site). Furthermore, such deceptive ads are not uncommon; indeed exactly half of the 66 ads shown exclusively to gay men (more than 50 times) during our experiment did not mention “gay” anywhere in the ad text.
This is sort of a problem. The study also found that there were more ads targeted specifically to gay men than there were for lesbians. This shouldn’t make you feel any better. According to Adrian Chen on Gawker:
In an interview with CNN, Facebook spokesperson Andrew Noyes denied the problem, stating, “We explicitly prohibit [advertisers] from associating that targeting detail with the data collected from the user in forms they fill out, applications they make or other interactions on their site […] We take the privacy of our users very seriously and take action when violations of these policies come to our attention.”
Given that Facebook is known for letting third party apps share information with advertisers, revealing private email addresses, having a founder that hacked user accounts for fun, rolled out privacy changes in a way that violated Canadian law twice and has generally been making it harder than ever to hide your sexuality/other personal info (should you want to), I question the validity of this statement.
FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL
The one thing that Facebook is actually doing right is cracking down on bullying and anti-gay pages. Naturally, the Family Research Council thinks this is a horrible idea.
According to Tony Perkins, the head of the FRC, Facebook is cowardly for taking down homophobic content. (Because sticking up for people insulting minorities that you just don’t like isn’t cowardly at all.) Yesterday on Opposing Views, Perkins wrote, “It may happen slowly, but I guarantee that Facebook will begin to broaden its definition of what’s ‘hateful’ based on GLAAD’s prior actions. Will GLAAD pressure Facebook, as it did the Washington Post, to purge any research about the risks of homosexuality? Will discussions about biblical faith suddenly be considered harassment? And, more importantly, will these standards be applied across the board?” Then he used air quotes around the words hate crime. Feeling outraged yet? The FRC contact page is here.
FROM RUSSIAN ACTIVISTS WITH LOVE
In a unanimous ruling, the European Court of Human Rights stated on Thursday that Russia violated the rights of gay activists — including previously forcefully detained Nikolai Alekseyev — by preventing open protest. The government will have to pay a fine and damages equivalent to $41,300.
Yuri M. Luzhkov (recently-fired former mayor of Moscow) is known for being a public opponent to gay rights and has called pride parades “satanic.” While vowing to prevent a parade planned for May, Luzhkov said, “We haven’t permitted such a parade and we won’t permit it in the future. It’s high time that we stop propagating nonsense discussions about human rights, and bring to bear on them the full force and justice of the law.” According to the AP, the court said that while marches were officially banned to uphold public order, the real reason was “a dislike of gays and lesbians.” Unfortunately, Luzhkov will not be held personally responsible for paying the fine and damages.