Queer Voices

Facebook's Targeted Advertising Blamed In Gay British Teen Allegedly Being Thrown Out Of Home

Facebook is firing back at allegations the social networking site "destroyed the life" of a gay British teen.

As Privacy International reported, the teen -- whom they refer to only as "David" -- was thrown out of his London home after his parents discovered "incriminating" gay content on his Facebook page. The content that David's parents allegedly found was not intentionally placed on their son's Facebook page by him, but rather the targeted advertising generated by the site itself based on a user's activities and relationships.

As the site reports, "He never mentioned anywhere on his profile that he was gay, and was not openly involved in any online gay groups. For David, living in a closed-minded community and with homophobic parents, such revelations would be disastrous."

The report continues: "The company placed that material on his page without notification, without his consent and in violation of every principle of care that the company claims to stand for...David knew the ads were displayed on his profile, but could do nothing to remove them no matter how hard he tried. They just kept coming back. On this occasion he made the mistake of leaving his computer screen on while going to the shop, unaware that his parents were to return earlier than expected to the house."

A Facebook official expressed their support for David to Forbes, but denied the site's content could have explicitly contributed to his abandonment. "We sympathize with anyone who has been the victim of discrimination and we are saddened by the story Privacy International shared on its blog," the spokesperson said. "However, this case is about appalling discrimination and unauthorized access to a person’s account, not advertising. Our ads are only shown to people based on the information they have chosen to post or add to their profile — the same information that would have been visible as a result of the unauthorized access."

Unicorn Booty blogger Kevin Farrell also questioned Privacy International's decision to point the finger at the social networking site. "The very act of creating a Facebook page and participating in the world’s biggest social networking site requires acknowledgement of the company’s terms of service, which include targeting ads," he wrote. "Closeted Facebook users should surely exercise caution when using the free site, especially if their home life is potentially volatile."

Of course, it's not the site's first time being named in connection with an LGBT youth case. In January 2011, Kameron Jacobsen, a 14-year-old New York student, was allegedly tormented by school bullies on Facebook over his perceived sexual orientation before taking his own life.

Previously, Facebook employees took part in an "It Gets Better" campaign video in support of LGBT youth.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article attributed a quote to Unicorn Booty blogger David Farrell. His correct name is Kevin Farrell.