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Facebook to Sue a UK Startup for Gambling Ads Targeting Children

- October 16, 2019 By Oliver Young -

A UK startup marketing firm has been advertising gambling on Facebook targeting children. The Facebook Ads that encouraged underage gambling were spotted by the giant, which is going to sue the company.

And even though it was reported at the beginning of the year that UK underage exposure to gambling ads was dropping, it seems like marketers have found new ways to go around the regulations and target children in the ads. Facebook, being the biggest social media platform, has noticed the case and is taking action against it.

The social media platform Facebook found The Spinner guilty of targeting underage users to gamble and is considering taking legal action.

The social media platform Facebook found The Spinner guilty of targeting underage users to gamble and is considering taking legal action.

Gambling Ads Targeting Children Exposed

The Spinner, a UK-based startup that provides social media ad-targeting, was busted targeting children in the well-covered gambling ads. A media outlet of the company admitted assisting gambling operators in manipulating underage users of Facebook into gambling. Elliot Shefler, the spokesperson, said that The Spinner uses sniper targeting that floods the user’s feed with content that was relevant to manipulate the Facebook user into a certain activity. These activities varied, going from proposing one’s girlfriend into having more sex with her boyfriend, to convincing gamblers into gambling more. But even though convincing known gamblers to gamble more is a crime in itself, convincing underage users to gamble is far worse.

Facebook actually found 740,000 user accounts in Europe, which belonged to children under the age of 18 which were interested in gambling. The “interest” tags on Facebook are automatically generated based on the user’s activities. This, on the other hand, gets easily abused by marketers, which use it in their campaigns no matter the consequences.

But this doesn’t mean that Facebook will allow that. In fact, upon contacting The Spinner, Facebook was not too pleased to learn about the disclosure. Shefler explained that The Spinner did not pick the players, the casino operators did, and they were not specifically targeting underage users, but all users interested in gambling. Facebook then explained tit and allow third-party marketers to violate its terms. In admitting that it was considering taking legal action against The Spinner, in the Facebook statement, it was explained that promoting gambling or alcohol to minors was a no-no, and they enforce against these activities when they find them. Facebook works closely with regulators to provide the right guidance for advertisers to help them reach their audiences responsibly and effectively.

The Rules for Gambling Ads for Operators and Third-Party Marketers

The UK Gambling Commission has repeated over and over again that the underage and vulnerable should be kept away from gambling, with no excuse. And yet, a few months ago, a study showed that operators were still exposing children to gambling ads. What The Spinner explained, if taken seriously, that operators were ordering them to target any gambler, regardless of age or the risks, would mean that an even bigger problem will soon arise. The UK Gambling Commission will then need to take this case itself, and find those operators that The Spinner mentions.

Whichever the case, it won’t go unnoticed. The UK Gambling Commission keeps tabs on its licensees and if the case were as The Spinner says it is, the regulator will be forced to take action. Mind you, the rules say that operators are held responsible for the third-party affiliates and marketers, so if what the advertisers said was true, the operators would be the one to blame.

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