Meta is taking additional steps to limit potentially harmful advertising campaigns. The company is making it more difficult for advertisers to target teenagers.
Beginning in February, Facebook and Instagram will no longer allow marketers to target teens based on gender — only age and location. Follows and likes on social media will also have no effect on the advertisements that teens see.
Meta will expand ad preferences in Facebook and Instagram in March to allow teens to see fewer sales pitches for a given topic. Teens could previously hide ads from specific advertisers, but now they have the option of automatically downplaying entire categories such as TV dramas or footwear.
The social media behemoth has tightened restrictions on the content teens can access. In 2021, Facebook and Instagram will prohibit advertisers from targeting ads based on the interests of teenagers.
Instagram also made accounts private by default for teens under the age of 16, and this year all new teen users were restricted from viewing sensitive content. Meta has also restricted “suspicious” adults’ ability to message teens on both platforms.
This is the second significant ad policy shift in a week. Meta had just released an AI-based system designed to reduce discriminatory ad distribution the day before.
The technology is being released as part of a settlement with the federal government over allegations that Facebook allowed businesses to target advertisements based on ethnicity, gender, and other protected classes.
Meta, like the previous efforts, has a strong incentive to act. The attorneys general of ten states are investigating Instagram’s effects on teenagers, and the European Union recently fined Meta $402 million for allegedly mishandling privacy settings for younger users.
Governments are concerned that Meta is exploiting adolescent usage habits or exposing them to threats, such as content that could lead to mental health problems.
The new safeguards will not solve these issues on their own, but they will demonstrate to officials that Meta is serious about reducing ads that prey on teenagers.