A suicide victim’s photos got used in a Facebook online dating ad

Facebook found itself on the defensive yet again this week after a Facebook ad for an online dating site used the images of a Canadian suicide victim.

Facebook removed the offending ad, which promoted a Canadian online dating site called Ionechat.com. It also issued an apology, calling the use of the image a “gross violation of our ad policies.” Here’s the full statement:

“This is an extremely unfortunate example of an advertiser scraping an image from the Internet and using it in their ad campaign. This is a gross violation of our ad policies and we have removed the ad and permanently deleted the advertiser’s account. We apologize for any harm this has caused.”

17-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons hanged herself in April after a photo of her alleged rape was distributed on social media.  Parsons suffered from cyber-bullying after the image went viral – she received hundreds of messages harassing her and calling her a slut.

The ads were first noticed by Andrew Ennals, who sent out the following tweet, along with a screenshot of the ad: 

This unfortunate incident really does raise the question of how our images on the internet are being used. Jen Nedeau has a fantastic article on the topic that raises some important points about image rights in the age of sponsored content. Facebook hasn’t explained how the image was appropriated, but it’s conceivable that the advertiser’s search algorithm automatically pulls pictures from around the social media platform to be used in the ad. Expect Facebook to crack down on activity like that, especially since it has now partnered with Shutterstock to provide stock image use for its advertisers. 

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