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Facebook Ads Target You Where It Hurts

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I fought back harder. I clicked a little blue link that said "Report" and filled out a form.

A drop-down menu gave choices: Was the ad "misleading, offensive or pornographic?" I chose offensive. Facebook thanked me for the feedback and said it would take appropriate action, though I shouldn't expect any notification about this action.

Nothing changed. Facebook continued its onslaught of muffin-top and fat-bride taunts. I averted my eyes and tried to remember that saying about rubber and glue. I didn't spiral into a body-image crisis, nor did I start to diet. But there's got to be some kind of psychological toll wrought by so many weight-loss images each week.

I decided to investigate further, and obtained a document for advertisers called "Common Ad Mistakes." In it, I found this nugget:

"Text may not single out an individual or degrade the viewer of the ad." It even gave an example of a diet ad that uses unacceptable language: "You're Fat. You don't have to be."

The muffin top ad is no more; whether the advertisers stopped using it by choice or by force, Facebook spokesman Hicks wouldn't say. There are other changes afoot at the site. Last month, it beefed up its advertising guidelines, in part to address the diet ads. Any ads that refer to health or medical conditions can go only to users 18 or older, and they must "present information without portraying any conditions or body types in a negative light."

Also in July, Facebook launched its new interface, which includes "thumbs up/thumbs down" buttons beneath ads so users can receive the ones that are more relevant to them.

I assumed that the diet ads would subside after I changed my relationship status from "engaged" to "married" in May. They did. I now receive these:

"Trying to get pregnant? Visit our site now. We're a national network of fertility specialists treating male and female infertility."

Thanks, Facebook, for calling me barren.


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