LGBTI Facebook users in the UK have allegedly been targeted with advertisements promoting conversion therapy.
Users interested in ‘gender issues’ were served the ads, which promoted “sexual purity” through the social media site’s complex adverting algorithm, according to a report by The Telegraph.
An ad stating “Homosexuality Was My Identity” was served to one lesbian user on the site as a result of her liking several LGBTI pages.
“I don’t know why Facebook has permitted this group to target LGBTQ people, who have intentionally sought out community and education amongst peers, for shaming and hatred masked as love,” Tessa Ann Schwarz said, describing seeing the ad as “really upsetting”.
Another ad pushed a book which claimed it could offer “help for men with same-sex attraction” from a conversion therapy practitioner with an evangelical background.
“There was nothing overtly homophobic about the ad I saw itself,” Alastair Ryder said.
“But it was written in a way to try to appeal to people who may be depressed or self loathing due to their sexuality.
“I think it’s pretty irresponsible for Facebook to allow an advert that preys on gay men with mental health issues in such a negative way on their homepage.
“I don’t think I was targeted for any specific reason, aside from being gay, but out of the people I know who I’ve asked, I’m the only person who has been targeted with this ad.”
“That Facebook not only allowed but profited from such a targeted advert, disguised as an offer of help while preying on young men, especially regarding something as personal as their sexuality, is sickening and truly dystopian,” said Griff Ferris, a legal and policy officer at Big Brother Watch.
“We have rejected these ads and they are no longer running on Facebook,” a spokesperson for the company said.
Facebook has been the subject of controversies around LGBTI users in the past, including their rescinded ‘real name’ policy, the absence of the pride reaction during this year’s Pride Month, inaction on pages promoting anti-LGBTI messaging, and banning lesbians for referring to themselves as ‘dykes’.