As if we needed another reason to dislike social media and all of the things that it is doing to our children these days, we’ve got another one. There’s a new report that says Facebook has apparently “tricked” our kids into spending thousands of our dollars online on games such as Angry Birds and Ninja Saga. Color us surprised, right?
According to USA Today, more than 135 pages of documents from the Center of Investigative Reporting (CIR) reveals that Facebook has reportedly used secret strategies to target children into pumping up revenue for games like Angry Birds, Ninja Saga, and Petville. CNET claims that this tactic is being called “friendly fraud” and that Facebook has encouraged their staff to underage users who didn't realize credit cards were linked the Facebook accounts.
"Some went so far as to develop a fix for the problem, but the company never implemented it," CNET reports.
The documents were obtained by USA Today and include emails from Facebook employees that were sent between 2010 and 2014. If you can recall, that was also the time that many of us were obsessively taking care of our virtual pets in Petville (if we weren’t trying to beat our spouses in Words With Friends). The outlet reported that during that time kids under 18 years old spent more than $34 million in purchases. And no,
Facebook employees referred to children as “whales.” The documents said that rather than being big spenders, many “whales” were playing games or spending money accidentally or unintentionally, as children didn’t realize that purchases of virtual currency were connected to their parents’ credit cards.
The papers also allege that Facebook refused to issue refunds in some cases and that the social media giant would not try to block kids from spending money because it would reduce revenues. In a statement released to the press, Facebook says it now works with parents and experts to offer tools for families navigating the internet. The company says it's also updated its terms of service to make it easier to request and receive refunds.
That’s just a little food for thought that next time you play Mafia Games with your Facebook friends, right?