The article does say "the average age of Angry Birds players on Facebook was five years old" but includes no evidence of Facebook calling five year olds "whales".
It also includes a separate recorded incident (chat logs) where two Facebook employees referred to a 15-year old as a "whale" and refused a refund, but 15 is not 5.
I believe it was in paragraph 4.
I have a hard time understanding how there could be any discussion at all. It seems very clear to me that you refund. What kind of people are working at Facebook?
The burden of checking age for each transaction should be with the seller, as it is enforced in retail. If the seller doesnt check for proof, then the transaction should be trivially refundable at least.
This software exists solely to manipulate irrational gambling tendencies.
And even putting the kid issue aside, anything that discourages repeated-purchase IAPs is itself a net benefit to gaming and app development.
> based on their age and susceptibility to marketing
When you realize that you are (by mistake or not) marketing to 5 years old that can spend thousands for addictive entertainment you should also realize that something is seriously wrong.
I didn't get it at first but now looking at it it does appear that the title is a little misleading. It appears that the actual chat logs show them referring to a 15 year old as a whale. I'm totally with you that referring to a 5 year old as a whale is disturbing but if that isn't what the employees did then the headline of this article is incorrect.
I'm not really sure how I feel about the 15 year old and I'm not sure exactly what information they are working with. It does _seem_ like as long as the person is over 13 then it's policy for FB to charge them. Can a 13 year old even have a credit card?
Essentially the term is intended to refer to the developers of these applications as predators.
I'm not necessarily advocating for or against it's usage in either context, just pointing out the effect of using such a term has in terms of framing a conversation.
Mu; your question is a shitty rhetorical trap and I am certain you know it. Designing systems to exploit children is reprehensible; designing systems to exploit anyone should give you pause but children haven't finished baking their brains and everyone involved knows it.
And Facebook does not need you to cape up for them. Their stock ticker will do just fine, thank you.
When people of any age click "get coins" or whatever, the system is designed to bypass purchasing decisions, reduce friction completely, make sure they're deep in to the "getting dopamine hits" like a zombie aspect of playing your game.
The problem is not the relative amount of money being spent by a family's child whether that family be wealthy or of means.
The problem is that five-year-old children cannot provide informed consent.
EDIT: remove superfluous "the".
Yes? I mean, 5 years old...
It is the child who supplies the purchase motivation and the child who your product needs to satisfy. I'd say the customer is the child.
I don't think there's anything wrong with thinking of children as customers. I do think there's something wrong with manipulating children into spending thousands of dollars on digital gems, but I think that actually generalizes - it doesn't strike me as good moral choice to manipulate anyone into wasting large amounts of money on mobile games.
 - https://www.revealnews.org/blog/a-judge-unsealed-a-trove-of-...
> Gillian: Would you refund this whale ticket? User is disputing ALL charges…
> Michael: What’s the users total lifetime spend?
> Gillian: It’s $6,545 – but card was just added on Sept. 2. They are disputing all of it I believe. That user looks underage as well. Well, maybe not under 13.
> Michael: Is the user writing in a parent, or is this user a 13ish year old
> Gillian: It’s a 13ish yr old. says its 15. looks a bit younger. she* not its. Lol.
> Michael: … I wouldn’t refund
> Gillian: Oh that’s fine. cool. agreed. just double checking
Clickbait headline makes it sound like they were trying to recruit whales.
That you think a clearly misleading headline is a matter of 'sides' is worrying.
What's worrying is a person deciding to not refund a 13-15 year old kid that I'm pretty sure doesn't know how many money has spent on games.
So, yeah, it kinda matters that we not let such sloppiness slide.
What is the relevant difference in this context?
It’s just a magic line. 17? No consequences. 18? Full adult.
Complete fiction. Minors being tried as adults happens all the time. It all depends on how heinous the crime is.
> Alcohol brand starts marketing campaign targeting 18 year olds
> Alcohol brand starts marketing campaign targeting 5 year olds
Edit: Even the math is wrong. If they're asserting that everyone's eligible to be called a "whale" who plays Angry Birds, and that the average age of an Angry Birds player is 5, then the minimum age ("as young as") of a whale isn't 5, it's less than 5.
Through, given context it is less of scandal.
It's also a bit misleading to call 2 employees out of over 25,000 "Facebook."
If you’re dealing with a service that could potentially psychologically manipulate children, it’s on you to go the extra mile to separate metrics or risk factors related to that possibility and distinguish it from a lumped population.
If Facebook internally referred to high spenders as “whales” in an aggregate manner, and had not already done due diligence to distinguish & guard against this being applied to young children, that’s already maximally severe. Had they gone even further and intentionally applied the term to children, it would just be maximally severe from an ethical standpoint rather than an incompetence / negligence standpoint.
Given this, the only reason this is able to happen is because it flew under the radar for some time and then governments take time to legislate. By the time it actually becomes illegal, there could have been years of exploitation.
How do we solve this? Assuming that governments are slow moving (there can be benefits of this), and assuming that there will always be people with more flexible morals who will happily build these products, how do we create a society where this can't happen?
Coca-cola was recently found guilty of this in the "food industry self governing organ" in Norway . This is where complaints go first and if Coca-cola continues it can result in fines and whatnot.
They were using people from youtube channels that primarily makes videos for children in their own youtube channel videos.
From my now very vague memory of childhood TV, most ads for toys and games came in the evening news and soaps slots. When the adults were around too. Junk food was still OK, so kid's tv ads were for comics, and sweets, and sugar, oops I mean cereal: Sugar Puffs, Ricicles, Frosties etc.
I think it's a big mistake our regs on advertising toys to children have faded over the years. It's been shown time and again kids 12 and under can't understand commercial intent by ad industry research. So the real age may be higher.
If I post a video of my game on Reddit, am I marketing to children? There are a lot of children there, but it isn't a childrens' website. Does it matter if my game is strategy-/turn-based or animated with cute graphics?
Identifying demographics and targeting the marketing to them is the bread and butter of modern advertising. The entire justification for Google's and Facebook's mass consumer surveillance is to offer corporations more targeted advertising.
There are gray areas but if you're marketing to children, you know you're marketing to children.
For cases like this it's much easier to evaluate it case by case.
Don't hire developers who have worked for companies involved in these products. If you see Facebook on a resume, put it in the bin.
I don't know, but it seems absolutely absurd that Facebook or anyone else gives someone a hard time about refunding thousands of dollars of virtual goods. Especially when you consider Nordstrom's or Costco's return policies for physical goods!
I understand that you need to make a balance between easy refunds and running a business, but the COGS for a virtual good after development cost must be a fraction of a penny. Forcing parents to shell out thousands for their kids' actions in an online game is an insane policy. One would hope "the market will correct it", but maybe it does take legislation.
Puhleeze, I haven't heard any remotely viable way that any even halfway decent alternative to Facebook becomes possible. I see multiple posts a day bitching about the evils of FB, and then they come out yesterday with enormous revenue and user numbers.
The only way FB will slow down is if they are trustbusted.
Facebook is dominant in social media, but this is mobile gaming micro-payments. Google and Apple are also large in this space.
That said, I've little confidence this oligopoly will do the right thing without regulation.
This is something that happens all the time in all sorts of industries. It's sort of the thing that happens with free markets, people try various things, some are positive and some are negative.
So how do we not throw out the positives when mitigating the negatives? The answer is well known but imperfect. Open and public debate, journalistic investigation, political action.
A kid can walk into a store and buy as much candy as they want. The problem is that usually they don't have a credit card in their hands.
You can market toys to kids, but most toys aren't harmful to their health, mental wellbeing, or financial state. Arguably many kids toys promote good health, wellbeing, educational material, etc.
An incidence of zero is a difficult number to reach in any category. Everything is about tradeoffs.
FB employees can and should protest. I've gone as far as refusing to work for Facebook or any other adtech firm, but not everyone is privileged enough to make that choice.
That's not true for everyone. They may not starve, but they may make much less or give up the resume boost.
I share the sentiment as a corporate family-oriented programmer from a flyover state that has been heavily recruited by FANNGs. I don't like working for anyone, and being a teensy cog being ground up in a duct-taped together machine like that seems like torture.
If they couldn't keep their ethical fences up we would see far more impact from the same numbers of whistleblowers - criminals think they won't be caught.
By compromising on some other value we hold dear. These things are always trade-offs. Exploiting kids for money will be something we don't permit but ultimately tolerate.
We don't permit or tolerate accidental nuclear explosions as a contrasting example. We've create a society where that just doesn't happen or can't.
It’s more reasonable to say that parents ought to be on top of things and recognize that not all of them are. Thus it’s best to have other safeguards in place. Like make Facebook liable for its exploitive behavior.
Kid asks parent if she's allowed to buy 10$ worth of gaming stuff
Parent agrees, enters cc info, which is stored by FB without any warning
Games are designed in a way that you just click some cuddly icon without even realizing that you spend real money
In my book we're slowly in executives should wind up in jail territory when it comes to this evil carbunkel of a company without any morals, whatsoever.
So, stop right here. The solution is for parents to take a look at what their kids are playing and refuse to let them play F2P stuff. Mine aren't allowed anywhere near F2P games for the very reasons you outlined.
If you let them play F2P games, you know that inevitably the "pay" part is going to rear its ugly head repeatedly, even with perfectly-implemented controls that prevent the kid from taking your credit card for a ride. Every damn day they're going to ask you to buy that stupid in-game currency. Just say no before it ever starts. Otherwise, good luck.
My parents would buy me $10 of gaming stuff as a kid, like a month subscription to an MMO. Seems unreasonable to expect them to know there's some in-game button I can press that keeps charging their card. I played World of Warcraft for five years and still couldn't tell you if that feature existed in-game. How would my mother?
Seems like a tall order especially with all the other things a parent needs to stay on top of when raising kids. "Just don't make digital purchases" seems like a weak solution. Small measures like having to re-enter the CC control code after a time interval would really help parents.
The pattern is very simple. If the game has an in-app purchase along the lines of:
* Buy 10 gems: $0.99
* Buy 50 gems: $2.99
etc. then it's F2P garbage. Get rid of it. Take the five minutes to see what your kid is playing.
Otherwise, you're asking to ban these games altogether or make them 18+. All because it's too much trouble to see what they're actually doing with that iPad you throw in front of them.
Like have a default maximum spend in Facebook of $5 per app and $50 total, and require at least a double-lock to enable a higher level of payments.
Double lock: user confirms by ticking a box and by following a link in an email, say; then they get a message on their Facebook saying "you authorised higher spending for $game, up to $amount".
They could require pre-deposit, not allow use of credit cards, only allow spending if your credit rating is good, etc.. But none of this things increase mindless spending.
The reason we end up with laws covering stuff like this is because it's a lot easier to do that than fix the whole of society. I don't think anyone disagrees that every child having a caring and attentive parent would solve a lot of problems, but how do we get there? While we work that out, we can pass some laws to protect those children.
And Facebook handsomely and intentionally profited from that.
You're half right. We have to focus on strong families who would raise kids who, as adults, will have a strong enough moral compass to 1) say no to being involved in stuff like this stuff at Facebook, 2) blow the whistle when they find out about it, and 3) take urgent action when they hear the whistle being blown.
Because these children are the most vulnerable to begin with, they are the reason protections are required in law against e.g. marketing gambling products and junk food to children.
I mean they aren't wrong. A person who spends that much money on a game would most certainly be considered a whale. Jesus, I've spent a lot of money on a game like Hearthstone but nothing close to 6.5k!!!
> This is a 5 yr old... that's a whale. Of course we're going to refund him, he has no concept of the money he spent.
The term whale is just a description of the user's spending habits on the game and has not moral connotation attached to it.
Like "hyper addicted".
The moral issue here is that people generally do not want to be hunted and exploited for profit. They imply that people are prey by labeling them "whale".
I guess it depends on the environment, but it's common for (adult) whales in mobile games to know the term and use it in reference to themselves (and minnow, dolphin, etc).
How about we don't do corporate apologism eh
The majority of the revenue for a f2p game will often come from whales.
It’s an exploitive practice, and while it should be legal to part a fool with his money, it doesn’t mean the company doing it is good or shouldn’t be shamed.
We had access to the home phone and wanted to beat the game. So of course, we called the number a few times to get hints on how to beat hards parts of the game. This was before the internet where you could just lookup a walkthrough online.
You can imagine my mother's shock when she received a $200+ charge on her phone bill for a phone number she had never heard of. Apparently the cost of the call was about $5/minute.
We got yelled at and we weren't allowed to call the number anymore after that. I'm proud to say we still be the game though.
Fortunately they quickly refunded the money. I pointed out I wanted explicit authorisation for every purchase, and I think that's what Android now does.
If you uninstall an app before 2 hours after install you get an automatic refund.
Any company employing over 1,000 people is almost guaranteed to be involved in something evil because of the corruptibility of mankind, but you can't just assume that every single person is a direct contributor. Another similar example would be how you can't blame every individual American citizen for the various crimes the CIA has been running around the world committing, because there really are only a few Americans who have any connection to those things. This is true despite the fact that Mother, Apple Pie, the CIA World Factbook and the assassination of third world government officials are all technically part of the same institution.
You might counter with, if people can claim innocence even though they are part of a guilty organization, what's the motivation to improve? The answer to that is that the moral calling of Americans isn't to all leave America until the CIA gets shut down, it's to stay and stubbornly assert their morals until things improve. Evil leaders would much rather have a slightly smaller but completely obedient workforce than they would a larger, more skilled but unmanageable (in evil directions) one.
Replacing your own personal morality with the average morality of the organizations you are a part of is a trap, because you could also be way more evil than average. In fact, the most vile schemers at HBO might be worse than the most vile at Monsanto; and they could justify themselves by saying, "I can't be vile, I work at HBO, and HBO is not vile on average."
The best person at the NSA was probably Snowden while he was planning his defection. It's Snowden's actions that count for his judgment, not the morality of the NSA on average. If all NSA employees were traitors to the American people then Snowden would be one too! Obviously, only the NSA employees that do their jobs are traitors to the American people. There is more opportunity for heroism at Facebook because people could put their jobs on the line to defend what's right.
By no means am I justifying complicity, I'm saying that there's more opportunity to become a hero of the revolution in a terrible country than in a great one.
To use your fascist example, just because someone came from West Germany doesn't mean that they were members of the Statsi, and even if they were members of the Statsi, they could have been (and I would say they would have a duty to be) agents of the people working to undermine it from within.
Never thought of it this way... because it's bloody ridiculous.
If FB has been infiltrated by so many "agents of the people", they're doing a pretty crap job at improving it.
Granted, my "revolution CIA the people NSA morals evil" language makes it sound kind of silly, but what I'm really talking about is the more mundane pushback that workers can achieve when asked to go beyond ethical boundaries. You don't know whether any individual Facebook employee is working in the right direction or against it, because although they might not be "plotting the people's coup, undermining the New Statsi from within," they might be gently pushing for more realistic improvements.
I'm sorry but I can't follow your argument. By now if you work for Facebook you must already know that they are in the surveillance business.
Previous justifications for that seem to have revolved around them not doing anything bad with that information. Well here's the thing, using that information to target children with addictive games for money is a bad use of that information. If you work for Facebook you work for people that pay you with that money.
The parent was calling the people being voted for or against in the US "facists" even though the NSA is the secret police of a constitutional republic. East German communists were closer to fascism than the US today by a long shot, "everything is the state" and all that.
>By now if you work for Facebook you must all ready know that they are in the surveillance business.
I'm not trying to absolve Facebook, I'm pointing out that some Facebook employees may be using their position to push back against Facebook's evil, or to slow it down. So, you can't pick up your torches and pitchforks against everyone who works there, because some good people might get pitchforked.
Personally, this is true for me. I've lived in four cities and three countries in my relatively short life, and my immediate family is often in four countries at any one time. I have friends around the world, who are starting families, getting married and generally living their lives. Facebook's products are the best way for us to stay connected to each other.
The world has never dealt with issues we're now facing, on the scale we're now facing. The lessons we learn as a society from Facebook, both its successes and failures, will only make whatever comes next that much better. Every single day, I work alongside incredibly smart people who are empowered to turn the tide. We're making a difference but perception often lags reality. It's also a really, really big ship to turn around.
I've been given an opportunity to be part of the solution. I know that I would regret it forever if I didn't give it a try - if not me, who else?
Stealing from families by exploiting toddlers. This is what many of the most talented minds in the world are working on. Truly tragic.
No we don't, we can choose not to accept it and to speak out against it. It's abhorrent behavior and shouldn't be tolerated in a modern society.
Many of the world's greatest atrocities began with apathy. It's so easy to look back and wonder how on Earth people accepted the behavior of the powerful that descended to tyranny, but looking into the future is much more difficult, and often, much more uncomfortable.
If there is a market it will be exploited by someone.
The solution is to regulate the market so that Facebook cannot do whatever it is doing.
On short term, maybe.
The possibility of doing evil to customers is proportional to the market size, much like in the drug business.
I do however why such questions are being asked of Facebook/Google and not of companies like Thales/Lockheed Martin? Perhaps the mainstream media feel more threatened by Facebook/Google, because like all the MSM crave power, and Google /Facebook /other social networks can democratize dissemination of opinions and erode the power of MSMs to act as gatekeepers of Ideas.
> The diegetic argument aims to dismiss criticism at its core, suggesting that there aren't any problems with a text provided controversial elements are internally consistent with the rest of the story world. In slang terms, this could be referred to as The Thermian Argument. In the sci-fi classic Galaxy Quest, the thermians don't understand fiction as a concept. It doesn't exist in their language, and thus they see all texts as historical documents.
Yes, "whale" is industry slang/jargon for a high spending account. It is also fiction that was made up by the gambling industry. As such, the term doesn't have any intrinsic meaning; it gains meaning from how it's used. Using a made-up definition as if it had a specific intrinsic meaning doesn't justify bad behavior, but it does revel some of the speaker's ethics.
Don't try to turn this into something it's not.
Thanks for the new way to express this fact, but I honestly don't see what you are arguing.
Anyone who's worked in gaming knows that "Whale" is a term to refer to high spenders that are several deviations from the norm.
A 1-year old racked up $10k in bills on a game where people normally spend $30? Whale. Period.
That's not unreasonable at all because the 1-yr old is in-fact a high spender several deviations from the norm.
Does any of this mean the game was explicitly marketed to 1-year olds? No.
Is it possible that the parent racked up the $10k in bills and blamed it on their kid? Entirely.
Have at it HN.
You're making an argument that since the word is consistent, everything is fine and dandy, but the meaning of the word hardly changes the situation here. Not everything is about outrage, there are legit disturbing points this article makes.
They've normalized calling people whales (and dolphins and krakens and...). They've dehumanized their clients; made it easier to not feel concerned that people are dropping hundreds or thousands of dollars on intentionally addictive video games.
The fact that the word "children" part of the discussion is a side-note. They're high-dollar spenders (whales).
I don't understand the outrage about the term "whale" here.
I do understand outrage about the targeting of underage gamers though.
And that makes it OK to refer to people (often those with addiction problems) spending money they don't have on videogames as whales? To target them explicitly with psychological tactics to get them to spend even more money?
I disagree. It's dehumanization. It's morally wrong. Am I in a bubble for thinking such actions are wrong, or are others justifying their own immoral behavior in thinking "well, it's their fault for playing the games and spending the money"?
Facebook, by nature, is a dehumanizing company. They have over 1 billion user accounts...
As someone who works for a software company, I have never considered it my responsibility to check whether a user is "spending money they don't have" on my product. How is that tenable?
I've also never targeted underage users - before you throw me under that bus for no reason, as well..
While whale does not carry a very offensive undertone when you're characterizing a group falling victim to some scheme, it is certainly insulting and dehumanizing when they are your targets, especially when calling individuals as such.
My reasoning is fine. I don't like Facebook, and I don't recommend it, because it is dehumanizing, by nature.
Assume less. It makes for better conversation..
Or in other words, calling a child a "whale" implies they think it is perfectly fine that children are high stakes gamblers, because this is the value judgement that comes with the term "whale".
If they are knowingly _targeting_ underage users, I do not condone that at all, and it should be addressed. Stop with the "outrage" about the term "whale". It doesn't add to the conversation
All of us are rational actors who should dicuss EULAs with their lawyers and fully understand and evaluate the consequences of tracking and surveillance.
You live in a weird and not particularly healthy bubble. In every industry I've ever worked in that has lots of clients but derives most revenue from the big fish, "whale" is the common and standard term. It's not demeaning and the whales are generally proud of their status.
If you need some pop culture orientation, watch just about any TV show set in Las Vegas.
All video games are addicting. To a kid's perspective, they're just playing a regular game.
You've stretched the word "addicting" pretty far when you use it to put an equality between both "Spec Ops: the line" and "Candy crush saga".
It might have been a quick reaction to the exorbitant expenditure and it was the first word that occurred to the employee because it's a common term and they've dealt with 50 other cases that day.
[HN user proceeds to post his outrage at outrage culture]
That’s awesome, reminds me of the movie PCU, where the students protest protesting.
> Facebook wouldn't refund large purchases made by underage gamers.
(Regardless of if they are 1 years old)
Need more be said?
My interpretation of all these stories coming out on the news this past year is the creation of a narrative (you could also say exposing) of the reality of Facebook's corporate culture. One that lacks empathy towards its users and society overall, and instead is focused solely on the ends of user engagement, data collection, and revenue generation plowed with a blind following of the word of "Zuck". This all regardless of the means to get there.
Given the prominence of FB's products in so many people's lives, I don't think the outrage is misplaced.
Legally the parents consented to the charges, but it’s clear from the leaked documents Facebook knew parents thought it was a one time charge not something their kid could spend without limits.
But the complaint here is that the headline implies that it means something that they used the term whale. It doesn't.
Whales are just a segment of customer. And incidentally, there are real, legit whales. There are a lot of rich people in the world who willingly throw money at luxury items like exotic cars, expensive vacations, lavish parties, etc. And some of those people like to play video games too and are totally content spending $500 or $5,000 on coins and junk for a game.
Basically there are two ways to interpret this story. One of them has Facebook salivating while asking themselves, "Is this kid a whale?" The other interpretation has Facebook asking themselves with some degree of concern, "Is this whale a kid?"
Sure thing. COPPA.
If they knew these patrons were as young as five and didn't have informed consent from their parents, they're in deep.
Have at it, askafriend.
Kids under 2 aren't supposed to be getting any screen time, except possibly to talk with their parents or grandparents on Skype/Hangouts/Facetime. If people are outraged about 1-year-olds racking up enormous gambling debts, then they're not nearly outraged enough since for every 1 kid who does that there needs to be thousands or tens of thousands using the app in the first place.
So sick of seeing this junk on HN every day.
I do think the outrage culture as found in Reddit, etc and most of main stream media are slowly creeping in to HN.
Now my automatic reaction to articles like this, any side that resorts to appeals to emotion in an argument, is trying to be manipulative.
If that were certain, then it's irrational for facebook to refuse the refund.
The entire piece starts with a faulty, provocative implication that has no basis in reality.
The solution would be for Facebook employees to stop doing this kind of thing on an almost daily basis.
If Facebook the corporation can't or won't control its behaviour because its first loyalty is to maximise shareholder value then it's up to various governments to get together and sort out some kind of regulation.
Businesses will always try to profit maximize. Not stating what Facebook is doing is right or wrong because that's subjective depending from which perspective you look at it but the root of the problem is not Facebook itself; it's people using Facebook.
Getting mad at Facebook for allowing kids to perform in-app purchases is like getting mad at McDonalds for allowing kids to purchase junk food. Unless you of course think that McDonalds is "exploiting children" as well when parents take them in the restaurant, then we don't have much to debate here.
Yeah, you hit that libertarian sauce way too hard. Stop worshiping money and relearn how to respect humans.
Feel free to keep blaming corporations for bad parenting and lack of responsibility for their own children.
Would recommend that you start worshipping money yourself so you can buy yourself a better education. Maybe then you'll stop telling people how to live their lives in a way that tailors to ignorance.