Advertisers on Instagram, Facebook and Messenger will no longer be able to market to under 18s based on their interests

Social media giant Facebook will impose more control on the types of advertisements young people see on its platforms.

Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Josh Taylor and Christopher Knaus

Tue 27 Jul 2021 23.28 BST

  •  Facebook announced on Wednesday that, starting in a few weeks, Instagram will stop advertisers marketing to teens under 18 based on their interests. Only their age, gender and location will be able to be used to target ads to them.The changes will apply across Facebook, Instagram and Messenger. In a blog post, Facebook said although everyone could opt out of targeted ads manually, the company had decided to do it automatically for children.The reforms were announced on the same day a new paper was published in the journal Public Health Research and Practice, which found Australia’s largest alcohol companies were failing to stop alcohol advertising reaching children on social media, including Instagram.The 195 brands were owned by nine companies, and the research identified 153 Facebook accounts, including 84 based in Australia, and 151 Instagram accounts, of which 77 were Australian-based.The authors found 28% of the Instagram accounts and 5% of Facebook accounts had not activated age-restriction controls.The industry’s system of self-regulation requires that companies activate age restrictions on social networking sites to prevent children accessing alcohol-related content. 
  • The code, named the Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code, is industry-managed and is a requirement only on signatories. All of the companies in the study had signed the code.
  • “Compliance with the industry marketing code requirement for age-restriction controls is inconsistent among the largest alcohol companies operating in Australia,” the paper found. “The industry-managed regulatory system is not preventing children’s access to alcohol content on social networking sites.”
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  • The paper examined the use of social media age-restriction controls by 195 leading alcohol brands on Instagram and Facebook, and found large numbers were not shielding their content from children.
  • “We’ve heard from youth advocates that young people may not be well equipped to make these decisions. We agree with them, which is why we’re taking a more precautionary approach in how advertisers can reach young people with ads.”
  • Lobby group Reset Australia recently reported being able to set up ads targeted at teens between 13 and 17 based on interests they had expressed including smoking, extreme weight loss and gambling.
  • Facebook will impose more control on the types of ads that children as young as 13 are exposed to on Instagram and other platforms, as new research finds Australian alcohol companies are not restricting their social media content from reaching younger users.

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