This morning, I checked Facebook before I went to week. I was surprised to see a post from over a week ago by my friend and technology teacher Kevin Jarrett. A few red flags popped up. There was nothing off about his post; I have even commented on it at the time.
- It was the second post in my iPhone news feed, where Facebook usually inserts mobile advertisements.
- There were no new comments. Nothing was marking as important that Facebook’s algorithm should have placed it so high in the news feed.
Then, I noticed something. I teach digital literacy and how to analyze a website for trustworthiness. One of the ideas that I stress with my students is that it is extremely necessary to do this in everyday life, not just when doing a research paper. Looking closer, I saw, in small nondescript font that it is a sponsored post.
Assuming that if Kevin was going to sponsor his own post (which you can do now), he wouldn’t it on promoting a gadget, I figured that the company that was written about in the post saw it and decided to “Promote” it.
Just to be sure, I wrote Kevin and it seems that is the case.
This feels like a very sneaky way to insert advertising. I do not have a problem with targeted advertising in general. If I have to look at ads, I’d rather they relevant to things I’m actually interested in. The catch is that I shouldn’t have to figure out that they are ads. I hav e clicked on 1 Facebook ad ever (for a race I was already thinking of signing up for) and less than a dozen on Google (which I use a lot more); I will click an ad if it seems interesting and worthwhile. Few do, so I do not. If a friend recommends something, I might be more inclined to check it out. Slipping in a recommendation that a friend made, without telling him that his post is being used or making it clear that it is an add, seems to be putting Facebook on another path towards owning and profiting off of both its users and their content. Our kids need to be aware of these practices and to be able to identify them on the fly so that they are not manipulated.