In February this year, Facebook launched their Reactions emoticons as a way for users to share their feelings towards a post, rather than just with a ‘like’. It was a way to not only deliver on calls for a ‘’dislike” button, but also a way for users to interact more with posts.
Now, almost 6 months on, Belgian Police have been warning their citizens to protect their privacy and not interact with posts on Facebook. The reason for this is because Facebook have been collecting information on how people react, when they react and when is the optimum mood to target them, as a way to advertise to them.
A post on the official Belgium Police website states, “The icons help not only express your feelings, they also help Facebook assess the effectiveness of the ads on your profile”. That way the site can be used as a tool to help tell when people are in a good mood, which would be the best time to show them advertisements as they are more receptive and more likely to buy.
Even reacting angrily to a post counts as engagement…it’s not just what you like, it’s what you don’t like that also tells a lot about who you are and what type things you react to. Facebook then sees this interaction as a sign that you want to see more things like that grab your attention and this information could be then sold to advertisers. You may think that reacting angrily to a post would mean that you see fewer things like it, but since high engagement posts are favoured by Facebook’s algorithms, there is actually more chance of you seeing related content. This is something that Facebook say they are working on in the future.
Every time a user reacts to a post, they are contributing to building their own unique profile. As a result of this profiling, Facebook can then target adverts based on how receptive they think you will be at a specific time.
It’s no surprise that Facebook’s phenomenal growth has been due to advertising. Did you know that in 2015, Facebook received 96.5% of its revenue from advertising, which produced a whopping $17.08 billion in revenue?
Former Facebook employees launched a campaign accusing the company of manipulating the content, by pushing certain posts whilst censoring others, but Facebook reacted true to form and collected the data on the campaign!