Facebook tricked kids to rake in money from online games, says report

28 January, 2019, 06:15 | Author: Sally Reid
  • Facebook used games to make millions off children in 'friendly fraud'

While Facebook did not develop the games in question, payments were made through its system which, at the time, did not have additional measures in place that required parents to re-verify card use if a child was spending more money.

Documents related to the case were placed under seal because Facebook successfully argued that releasing them to the public could harm its business.

More than 100 pages of private Facebook documents were released following a request by the Center for Investigative Reporting and shed light on Facebook's tactics.

It appears Facebook ignored warnings from its own employees that it was bamboozling children, Reveal reports.

Discussions showed the firm decided not to implement certain safeguards as it might affect overall revenues from people paying for games.

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An internal study showed children had spent $3.6 million on games between October 2010 and January 2011.

According to report, the case of a 12-year-old boy came to the notice when he had spent almost $1,000 in the game "Ninja Saga", which led to a lawsuit in 2012. The fees added up for weeks until the mother noticed and requested a refund from Facebook. The Rovio employee said the rate "seemed quite high".

The social media giant targeted kids in an aggressive effort to pump up revenue from games like Angry Birds, PetVille and Ninja Saga, Reveal reported Thursday, citing court documents from a 2012 class action lawsuit. One internal study of the issue concluded, "In almost all cases the parent knew their child was playing Angry Birds, but didn't think the child would be allowed to buy anything without their password or authorization first (like in iOS)". They were also unaware their children were able to charge in-game purchases to them "with passwords or any other form of verification". Bohannan filed a lawsuit after she could not reach Facebook for a refund.

A full overview of the particularly troubling bits of what was released can be found over on Reveal's website, including links to the released documents and snippets of conversations between Facebook and the developers of the games in question.

The catch of documents - which CIR says it obtained after Facebook was ordered to declassify them last week by a judge in the U.S. - number at more than 135 pages, and include dubious secret strategies on how to target the wallets of unsuspecting parents through minors. The independent government agency considers 2% charageback claims against companies a "red flag". "I said, 'show me what you are doing, ' so there was a little stack of coins and it would get low and it would blink at him and he would hit it and it would go brrrring and the coins would shoot up again", Bohannan said.

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