Nathan Halverson, Reveal:
Facebook orchestrated a multiyear effort that duped children and their parents out of money, in some cases hundreds or even thousands of dollars, and then often refused to give the money back, according to court documents unsealed tonight in response to a Reveal legal action.
Sometimes the children did not even know they were spending money, according to another internal Facebook report. Facebook employees knew this. Their own reports showed underage users did not realize their parents’ credit cards were connected to their Facebook accounts and they were spending real money in the games, according to the unsealed documents.
For years, the company ignored warnings from its own employees that it was bamboozling children.
A team of Facebook employees even developed a method that would have reduced the problem of children being hoodwinked into spending money, but the company did not implement it, and instead told game developers that the social media giant was focused on maximizing revenues.
This story is staggering. Facebook had all the information they needed to be aware that children were racking up hundreds and even thousands of dollars in charges on their parents’ credit cards, and actively avoided doing anything about it. Anyone who has an ethical bone in their body would recognize that it is indefensible to encourage processes that prey on kids’ ignorance of how credit cards work. But Facebook, institutionally, does not have such a basic level of decency; they only saw dollar signs.
As I’ve previously written, I can’t make the argument that Facebook ought to be shut down, but I struggle to think of something of value that we would lose if that happened.