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[dupe] Facebook Referred to Kids as Young as Five as “Whales” for Its Monetized Games (usgamer.net)
472 points by throwaway2048 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 298 comments

Where in this article (besides the headline) does it say Facebook "Referred to Kids as Young as Five as “Whales”"?

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.

>The Reveal reports that in one of the unsealed documents, two Facebook employees are recorded discussing whether or not to refund a child—whom they refer to as a "whale"—who racked up $6,545 in charges from a Facebook game.

I believe it was in paragraph 4.

> discussing whether or not to refund a child—whom they refer to as a "whale"—who racked up $6,545 in charges from a Facebook game

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?

If that were standard policy then parents might get the idea to let their kids just spend whatever they want on FB games knowing it'll just get refunded, effectively scamming app developers.

Which might lead to fewer micro-transactions in games marketed to kids? I'm okay with that.

In most legal systems contracts/transactions with minors are void to begin with and not enforcable. It's beyond me, why transactions beyond a limited monthly allowance are even possible, if the game is clearly aimed at minors.

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.

Agreed with you there. The real solution is to prevent them from happening in the first place, but I guess a refund policy which is very favourable for the player could help encourage that.

The app developers that are selling microtransactions to children? I’m not sure I’m supposed to feel pity. Even if they weren’t sold to kids, if every such game disappeared off of the app stores tomorrow, I would be more happy than upset.

This software exists solely to manipulate irrational gambling tendencies.

This seems like a feature, not a bug. If developers know that tricking or coercing kids into IAPs will not profit them, they will stop doing so.

And even putting the kid issue aside, anything that discourages repeated-purchase IAPs is itself a net benefit to gaming and app development.

Some FB games have thousands of whale players who spend over $1k per month. Not all of those purchases are obvious mistakes or instances of children not knowing what they are doing. It makes sense that they would review these purchases before refunding them. If they didn't they would potentially lose millions in revenue.

That's a lot different than what I got from the headline, which to me implied that they were regularly categorizing children as "whales" (high spenders) based on their age and susceptibility to marketing. In this case, that 5 year old is a whale. I doubt many are

In my opinion it should be ethically wrong to call a 5 years old a whale even if he/she is one.

> 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 think that there is some other concern about the general issue of clickbait or "fake news" that is entering this HN discussion.

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?

Well, yes. I had credit card since I was 16 and I believe 13 was the lower limit (but that's not in US).

Any wallet that keeps on paying, regardless of its age, is a whale. The fact that facebook calls them whales is basically a convenient way to not have to question how the HELL five year olds have spending habits to begin with. Because I can guarantee you that's not because Facebook enables them. You know, what with the whole "5 year olds don't have jobs or bank accounts" and the like.

Terms like Whale are derogatory and dehumanizing words used to remove empathy from a conversation. When you refer to a "whale" you're not bringing humanity into the discussion and thus precluding it form influencing your decisions.

Alternatively, the term is intended to frame the developers of these applications as whalers trying capture some percentage of the public without their clear-headed consent.

Essentially the term is intended to refer to the developers of these applications as predators.

Even when the term is turned around it serves the same function. The distinction is that you agree with it's use in one context but perhaps not the other.

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.

Facebook shouldn't have to factor "this person is 5" into their decisions at all. Minors, in countries where Facebook can rake in the dough, can't legally own or use creditcards. The term whale is derogatory, and is a super great subversion tactic: its presence distracts you form paying attention to the real problem, and instead tricks you into falling over the word itself, ignoring the real problem. And hey, looks like it got the job done.

I think you’re both right. It’s morally wrong to categorize a 5yo as a whale but it also appears to be an isolated case, so the headline is very inflammatory.

It's not morally wrong to categorize them. It's morally wrong to use them to take their family's money, though. (And maybe that's what being gotten at: a notion of these as regular and eager customers of free will, which is wrong.)

Yes, I have overreacted and read a bit more than what was written. I stand by my point, but the reality is more nuanced than how I portrayed.

Pretty sure I got worse than that in the playground at 5 years old.


> Are you suggesting publishers should not view 5 year olds as valuable customers?

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.

Yes, nobody should view 5 year olds as valuable customers. Their parent or guardian can be, but you should not design a product that encourages the child to spend money, and you should not think of the child as the customer. The child can benefit from your product, but they aren't the one making purchasing decisions.

I feel it's worth noting that the intention is to remove any "purchasing decision". There is a "allow spending via Facebook" decision, and a key element is ensuring that customers don't question "but hey will my kid buy $10k cost of lootboxes when I'm not looking".

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.

> If this was a child of an UHNWI there really isn't a problem with spending $5k on a video game at the end of the day.

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".

As I read more, I'm pretty sure the child in question was 15. It doesn't necessarily make it ok but it does seem like this article's title is pretty inaccurate. The conversation where the term "whale" was used was referring to a 15 year old that had spent around $6500.

> Are you suggesting publishers should not view 5 year olds as valuable customers?

Yes? I mean, 5 years old...

Who is the customer for children's toys? You might argue it's the parents because they supply the money, but I think that would be like arguing that the customer for any product is the actual customer's employer - who provides the money.

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.

I think it's wrong to market addictive entertainment to children even if they're rich.

I think it's wrong to market anything that is intentionally created to be addictive.

so the consensus is that fb shouldnt be collecting data but its ok when theres something that portrays fb in an ethically (not morally) bankrupt act through circumstance. smh

Something tells me that you are not a parent yourself.

Oh I'm sure it stopped at one 5 year old - said no one ever. Are you kidding me?

If you read the article it apparently was about a 15 year old not a 5 year old. The title is apparently misleading.

The child in that incident was 15, not 5.

How does one go from “two employees referred to...” to “Facebook referred to...”? it’s kind of like taking “Trump said” and changing it to “America said”, ewww. Is that even honest journalism? Writing an accurate headline isn’t hard.

I see what you are saying. It seems the article is conflating different things to make it appear worse unless I too am missing the quote where they refer to a 5 year old as a 'whale.'

Not on this one, but in the original where the story was first posted is a screenshot of said documents where in fact they refer to the kids as whales (iirc)

Mind linking to it? Otherwise this is just more hearsay on an already misleading click-bait title.

This[0] is from the organisation that got the files unsealed, and includes the "whale" reference at the beginning of the chat mentioned. Not sure it proves that 5-year-old were referred to in this way, but it does sound very casual in it's usage.

[0] - https://www.revealnews.org/blog/a-judge-unsealed-a-trove-of-...

Relevant part:

> 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.

Oh great. What a moral. 'oh that's fine. cool. agreed. just double checking'. Thanks god he's not a judge. These guys side Facebook versus a 13 year old kid, nice morality.

Is "these guys" supposed to be me? I'm not 'siding' Facebook. I think they should have forgiven the debt.

That you think a clearly misleading headline is a matter of 'sides' is worrying.

These guys => 2 guys in your transcribed conversation. I'm talking about the conversation.

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.

Fair enough. They’re Facebook employees - them "siding with" their own company doesn't quite seem like the right way to describe this - but I'm glad you're not talking about me and thanks for the clarification.

Thank you for doing your part to protect us from clickbait while Facebook ... what was it they were doing again?

The facts should stand on their own. If one feels it necessary to take the facts and "dress them up", it most certainly devalues the argument when it comes out that someone's been telling half-truths.

So, yeah, it kinda matters that we not let such sloppiness slide.

Agreed. Hyperbole is something we all fall victim to sometimes, but it is something we should fight against. Be exact as possible, even if huuuge sounds better.

In this case it is beyond hyperbole. I would say the title is just inaccurate.

> but 15 is not 5.

What is the relevant difference in this context?

A 15 year old could be working in many places - probably at least has a functional understanding of value for money based on past experiences, a 5 year old almost certainly doesn't.

A child is a child.

Which, unfortunately, doesn't mean anything. Someone can have a full time job at 15 on this planet, earn a living wage, have a bank account, and for all intents and purposes be financially independent. A five year old pretty universally cannot.

There is still a huge difference between 5 and 15. I am not saying the 15yo "got what they deserved" by any means, I'm just saying that it doesn't help anyone to pretend that they are developmentally identical. Laws may be descrete but morality is surely continuous.

A 15 year old likely makes some of their own financial decisions, occasionally, or even often, buys their own food, entertainment, etc. 15 year olds buy game consoles, computers and games all the time.

Why do we try children as adults for certain crimes?

It’s just a magic line. 17? No consequences. 18? Full adult.

Because prosecutors sometimes care more about being seen as tough on crime and not compassionate towards young kids who do stupid things at an age where they're not blessed with an abundance of restraint and good decision making skills?

Because it's cheaper and more fair to set an arbitrary limit and apply it across the board than to try to evaluate each offender's maturity level individually.

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.

I was missing a ? Mark in there. Other two posters figured it out. Will edit for you.

Age matters

> Alcohol brand starts marketing campaign targeting 18 year olds

> Alcohol brand starts marketing campaign targeting 5 year olds

When I was 15 I spent $3,500 on a video game console, controllers, Xbox live, halo, halo map packs, etc. When I was 5 I spent $1 on gum.

Was it your money? Was it really your decision as to whether you could spend it?

Yeah my money, my decision. I had around $6k of bar mitzvah money and savings from working as a teaching assistant and summer jobs. I spent just over half on video games during high school and related costs. I made it all back the summer after high school as a tech intern and then spent it all going out drinking first year in university.

It's important because the article headline is a bit clickbaity. It's true that Facebook called children "whales" but not "as young as 5", since the linked chat transcript in the article mentions a 15-year old child.

Legally there is none. Both are considered minors, not capable of giving informed consent for (in many US states) marriage, employment, military service, voting, driving, or opening a bank account independently. And it's not like Facebook deserves rebuke for exploiting 5-year-olds and a Nobel Prize for exploiting 15-year-olds. But it's also true that the content of the article doesn't support the headline.

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.

Could you expand on what you mean by "relevant difference?"

Whale is industry term for player that gives a lot of money. If any of those 5 years old ended up paying a lot of money, he would be called whale.

Through, given context it is less of scandal.

I’m sure the the op knows this. The point that was made is that the article’s title stated that FB staff is using that term to describe children. The article doesn’t actually support the claim it makes in the title.

It's clear however that the article had an agenda.

It's also a bit misleading to call 2 employees out of over 25,000 "Facebook."

I’m not sure I agree it’s less of a scandal in that case.

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.

I worked on the recommenders for an e-commerce site. We deliberately renamed called those customers "platinum level", because of the optics.

Good catch. They said 15 in the chat. The article was sloppily written.

This feels like it should be "obviously illegal", in the same way that it's illegal to market casinos, or loans to children, and illegal to market fast food to children in many countries.

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?

In my country, marketing to children is illegal period. They have no monetary concept.

Coca-cola was recently found guilty of this in the "food industry self governing organ" in Norway [1]. 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.

[1] https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=no&tl=en&u=https%3...

What even qualifies as "marketing to children"? Can I not set up a tabloid with a lollipop on it?

Well in the UK, you may not advertise junk food to children. A tabloid aimed at adults could contain that ad for your lollipop. A comic, kid's magazine or website, or TV channel or kid's time slots may not.

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?

I don't think reddit is a primary channel for kids so probably not, unless you specifically go into a reddit where it is known that a lot of children frequent and advertise there.

Are you being facetious?

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.

That’s all well and good but despite your indignation you haven’t actually explained what it means to market to children. Maybe I accept your premise that marketeers know how to single out specific demographics, but I don’t work in marketing so I have no idea what separates “marketing at children” versus just marketing in general.

There is not a specific black/white for this but if you have to ask you are usually on the wrong side.

For cases like this it's much easier to evaluate it case by case.

how do we create a society where this can't happen

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.

Put it in the bin, write a blog post about it, submit the post to hn.

More likely to happen: write a blog post about it on Medium, submit the post to HN, continue with life as usual.

> How do we solve this?

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.

> One would hope "the market will correct it"

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.

> I haven't heard any remotely viable way that any even halfway decent alternative to Facebook becomes possible.

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.

> 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?

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.

You missed regulation, unless it's meant to be implied from political action. The others are mostly ineffectual when there's billions in profit and marketing against them.

That's what I meant. Political action can mean regulating, as in not allowing tobacco ads, or taxing as in sugar taxes on soft drinks, or banning, as with certain drugs. Or it can mean subsidising or other encouragement outside of basic market forces.

Is it illegal to market toys to kids?

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.

It's illegal in many countries to market unhealthy food to kids, so while they can buy the candy, or ask to be bought it, kids TV channels for example won't have ads for them which limits the negative impact.

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.

What if it's a game that is good for mental development but has microtransactions, allowing them to unknowingly spend $1000s while also stimulating their brain?

Good mental development includes not being tricked in to spending other people's money, so I think such a game is impossible.

Practically speaking, if 8 year old walked into my store with their parents credit card, I wouldn't allow them to buy much more than a pack of gum.

> how do we create a society where this can't happen?

An incidence of zero is a difficult number to reach in any category. Everything is about tradeoffs.

> how do we create a society where this can't happen?

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.

I would argue that everyone is privileged enough to make that choice. Who are these people whose only choice is FB or starve? Surely in this field anyone who can get hired there can get hired elsewhere.

I'm not saying they'll starve, but I'm giving up nothing by avoiding adtech.

That's not true for everyone. They may not starve, but they may make much less or give up the resume boost.

I love the spirit of this comment: Facebook employees as poor pawns to be pitied.

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.

You seem to have misunderstood the spirit of the comment and then projected your own notions onto it.

What about offering more perks/options for whistle-blowers? I suppose the financial gain of whistle-blowing something like this is rather low... while the person will likely be barred from working at a lot of places (referring to an article on the Frontpage here a few days ago).

The financial gain of whistle-blowing something like this is pretty comparable to the societal value of whistle-blowing something like this. One random Facebook employee (of unknown rank and seniority) called a kid a whale; that doesn't matter in the slightest beyond its impact on an existing story. We can't incentivize people to run to the media with every chat log that looks bad out of context.

Really I think what is needed for that are far more robust protection against blacklisting of whistleblowers - although the devil is in the details given the general difficulty of proving employment discrimination.

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.

>how do we create a society where this can't happen?

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.

You have to have a focus on strong families. If the child has parents or guardians who are aware of what they're doing and will stop them from doing it then there wouldn't really be a problem in the first place at least with five year olds

Are you sure it’s wise to put the onus solely on the parents? Some kids are born into families with crappy parents. Are they to be exploited at the whim of whatever corporate goal is out there due to their bad luck of having crappy parents?

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.

In this case (or the online casino case GP was suggesting), the parent should keep his/her credit card safe. How this not the parent's responsibility?

Here's the scenario :

  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
That's not just only the darkest of patterns it's also geared towards vulnerable kids. Intentionally and by design.

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.

> Kid asks parent if she's allowed to buy 10$ worth of gaming stuff

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.

How many people outside of HN even know what "F2P" is and how it works? In-app purchases aren't limited to F2P, either. Nor are they always a dark pattern.

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 solution is for all parents to be aware of potential for dark patterns and to put the onus on them to refuse to let their kids play F2P games? It would be nice to live in a society in which the government doesn’t view actions that Facebook engages in as something every parent ought to be aware of. Caveat emptor works in some cases but not all of them. Your diligence in this situation is not something every parent has the foresight or willpower or knowledge to do. What Facebook did was morally reprehensible. There aren’t other parties to blame in this case.

> The solution is for all parents to be aware of potential for dark patterns and to put the onus on them to refuse to let their kids play F2P games?

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.

I do not wish to live in the type of society you appear to be comfortable with. I hope your view does not prevail.

You say "the solution ...". I think there are others.

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.

You're right that parents should be aware of what their children are playing, but that in no way justifies these deceptive practices by Facebook and other companies.

Have you ever misplaced something? Have you dealt with kids with curiosity or who desire something without thinking about the consequences? Facebook had an employee who gave the company specific steps it could easily take to prevent children from becoming whales. They refused to do this. Let’s not lose sight of just how shitty the people at Facebook who decided to do this are. This was a deliberate act on their part. The focus ought to be on them.

Sounds like it would be about as successful as abstinence only sex education.

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.

The problem with that thinking was that those games were engineered in a way, where those kids couldn't even realize that they got fleeced for real money.

And Facebook handsomely and intentionally profited from that.

Did you read the article before launching straight into victim blaming? It’s not about supervision, it’s about dark patterns. Parents were aware of what their kids were doing, but weren’t aware of what FB was doing.

> You have to have a focus on strong families. If the child has parents or guardians who are aware of what they're doing and will stop them from doing it then there wouldn't really be a problem in the first place at least with five year olds

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.

There will always be kids who don't get a strong family, whatever you do. You can certainly reduce this sort of thing (with adequate parental leave, financial parental support and broader societal compassion for parents (hard!)) but you can never reduce it to zero.

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.

You will also always get people targeting kids, even outside of the law. Reducing the number of kids without a family still might be a lot more effective than regulating the world into being as safe as an extended family (although both would be nice).

You still want the law to be there to go after the bad guys though. I agree any sensible solution will incorporate both approaches.

So kids who lack strong families are left to the wind to be exploited? Really?

It's called "fraud", and it is illegal in most if not all countries

Interestingly, it's legal to market colleges to 16/17 year olds, which almost certainly now involves taking out big loans.

> "The Reveal reports that in one of the unsealed documents, two Facebook employees are recorded discussing whether or not to refund a child—whom they refer to as a "whale"—who racked up $6,545 in charges from a Facebook game."

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!!!

A five-year-old is certainly not capable of understanding the significance of such a decision, and it's disgusting to exploit such weakness for large sums of money.

That doesn't change the fact that they are, in fact, a whale; a user that is spending large amounts on the game. The same term could be used in a sentence that doesn't come across as morally bankrupt.

> 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.

The whale terminology is a cutesy alternative to something more truthful and representative.

Like "hyper addicted".

They're only called "whales" because they're a great catch, in the fishing sense, where historically a whale was a singularly huge source of meat, blubber etc. Something you can hunt and exploit for profit.

IIRC, 'fish' is the term for someone who on average loses money in their gambling (in some particular game, or overall): a fish is a creature whose head is under water. In games like poker it roughly divides the recreational (and/or problem) gamblers from the pros. AFAIK 'whale' is probably an extension of that: a big fish.

If whales had a poker-equivalent I think it would be the high rollers getting special treatment because it is specifically referring to that last percent who can casually spend 1000x - 10000x more. Capturing a whale could sustain a village through an arctic winter.

Poker and other casino games are where this terminology comes from. High roller = whale.

Should consumers be hunted and exploited for profit? Would high-spenders appreciate the label "whales" if this reasoning were explained to them?

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".

> Would high-spenders appreciate the label "whales" if this reasoning were explained to them?

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).

A five-year-old also doesn't have any money of his own. Ultimately, the parents are spending the money and also the ones responsible for changing the situation.

The parents were most likely not aware. Some platforms/games purposefully design their UX so that it's hard to control for a parent and easy to spend for a child.

If you're not aware of 6k charges on your credit card (or even 6 dollars) then you're a very, very irresponsible person, let alone irresponsible parent.

It's the refund policies that are being questioned, you being aware of a charge doesn't mean anything when Facebook doesn't refund it.

So your child spent 6k$ and you are now aware of it. So what? This article specifically talks about the employees who talk about child as whales when discussing whether to refund or not. Presumably the 5 year old kids did not request the refund themselves.

You read an article about predatory practices and somehow you now want to place the blame on the user?

How about we don't do corporate apologism eh

No, I read a comment about parents who apparently don't check their credit card transactions for months at a time.

It isn't ethical to exploit children who have stupid parents.

The person in that incident was fifteen, not five.

We're told frequently that 18-22 year olds are incapable of understanding the implications of their college spending and the associated debt. Is a fifteen year old supposed to be more financially savvy?

Worse than that: most adults (in developed countries) don't understand the law of 72 (doubling time) yet own multiple compound interest debts (credit cards)

Still a minor.

True, but _probably_ old enough to understand the consequences of her actions. Certainly more so than a five-year-old at least.

Perhaps, but not necessarily. They believed they were using in-game currency!

Non-five year olds barely understand in-game currencies intended to obfuscate the real price. That's why they're used.

Agreed. "Whale" is a standard term in the free-to-play game industry to refer to any account in the top 1% or 2%. It has nothing to do with the age of the player or anything other than the revenue for that account.

The majority of the revenue for a f2p game will often come from whales.

A 5-year-old should not have unfettered access to Facebook nor should Facebook let them. If Facebook knew the user was 5-years-old and titled the child as a whale, that is essentially the definition of an exploited minor.

Only it was 15 year old. Misleading title to get people outraged and behold, people get outraged.

15 doesn’t actually make it better though. There aren’t a lot of valid excuses for micro transactions in a “free” game that can build up to $6500.

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.

If 15 didn't make it better, I feel like the article would have just said 15 instead of lying about it.

This type of predatory behavior has been happening for a long time. When I was about 9 years old, my brother and I bought Link's Awakening on Gameboy. On the back of the booklet that comes with the game was a line that read, "Need Help? Call this number" with an 800 phone number listed.

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.

800 numbers are toll free. Was it a 900 number?

Actually, not all 800 numbers are toll free. Just another dark pattern.

Perhaps they've finally made it illegal, but I remember plenty of complaints from people about 800 numbers that were scams that charged to your phone bill when you called them, even if accidental. I remember being surprised at the time because I thought all 800 numbers were free by design.

Good point. To be honest, this was about ~20 years ago and I don't remember the exact phone number. Might have been a 900 number. Either way, the phone number was being primarily marketed towards children who probably didn't know that the calls would cost money.

I've never played games on Facebook, but I did once discover that, after I purchased a game on Android for my son, he was able to make in-app purchases without authorisation. Turns out Android didn't require re-authorisation for half an hour after making an authorised purchase, which can make sense in some situations, but is a terrible idea with in-app purchases for an app you just bought for your kid.

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.

I had similar issue with iOS. I didn't disable in-app purchase and right after installing the game, my 6 year old spent $55 and when I got the receipt email a day later it was too late to reverse the transaction. Lesson learned and in-app option turned off.

Android is great for refunds compared to iOS.

If you uninstall an app before 2 hours after install you get an automatic refund.

Do you mean, you get a refund just by performing the uninstall action; or that on request a refund will be allowed?

Any current Facebook employees care to chime in on what makes this company worth your time as an employee in 2019?

Facebook employees are not all scheming about the best way to target 5-year-olds. Just like any company (including 90s Microsoft!) for every one executive working out how to maximize business value at the expense of everyone else on earth, there are a couple directly complicit engineers, and a hundred engineers that mainly work on improving server uptime so that Joe Schmoe can catch up with his highschool friends, or so Grandma can use a computer (in the case of 90s MS).

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.

What a bunch of BS relativism. So every organization over 1000 people is equally evil? As Bill Maher said, working for HBO is not the same as working for Monsanto. And for who have been following, working for Facebook is like much more like working for Philip-Morris than its like working for HBO. And spare the nonsense about our collective guilt for the CIA. Those of us who vote (and vote against the fascists) have no reason to feel guilty.

>As Bill Maher said, working for HBO is not the same as working for Monsanto.

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.

Maybe the maligned FB research app was implemented as a clumsy clone of Onavo by such an agent of the people, working to undermine Facebook 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.

>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 don't expect everyone to pay attention to history but the Stasi was the _EAST_ German _COMMUNIST_ state secret police. They came after the Nazis.

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.

>I don't expect everyone to pay attention to history but the Stasi was the _EAST_ German _COMMUNIST_ state secret police. They came after the Nazis.

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.

I mean, and to pull the CIA analogy further... you could easily argue that any country you name has done (or is actively doing) equally or more evil acts, or will. Running away from problems allows bad actors to go unchallenged.

Yep. I work on Integrity at Facebook. The challenge is massive and a huge proportion of the world uses our services to communicate with friends and family.

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?

Green pieces of paper with dead presidents on them.

Imagine actually getting paid with cash. To my deep regrets, I almost never use cash anymore; is it any different in California?

It's a metaphor.

Well, I can't tell. Parts of the world still use cash primarily or commonly. I don't know what they do in the US. If the metaphor is prevalent, that must be because cash still is. I honestly would have a hard time identifying some of the currency around here in Canada because I almost never see it.

Being showered with wealth?

It's depressing how true this probably is for many of them. In a lot of ways, it feels like the new Wall Street: cash large paychecks that distract you from the ethically repulsive work you do destroying privacy, undermining democracy and public discourse, and targeting young children for money that aren't capable of consenting to such financial decisions.

Stealing from families by exploiting toddlers. This is what many of the most talented minds in the world are working on. Truly tragic.

It's the reality, you have accept it or be depressed all the time then.

> you have to accept it

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.

Accept doesn't imply that you are a against it or support it or tolerate it, but mearly acknowledging the reality that there are always gonna be people who do something that you deemed abhorrent or atrocities.

I personally don't subscribe to this line of thinking, but a a fair share of people figure that it would happen anyway. So if someone is going to do it, then why not make sure you're the one to profit from it?

If I choose not to do evil then less evil is done in total. The amoral person who takes the Facebook job is not doing whatever evil they would have been doing instead.

I doubt that's the case.

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.

I don't see a contradiction. If I avoid doing evil less evil will be done. And if we outlaw a particular kind of evil that will likely reduce the incidence of that kind of evil. Both things are helpful.

> If I avoid doing evil less evil will be done.

On short term, maybe.

The possibility of doing evil to customers is proportional to the market size, much like in the drug business.

One could also ask why anyone should be working for military contractors/armaments manufacturers/small arms/weapon manufacturers/industries of adverse environmental impact? I think the ethical hazard in working at these places are more serious, than Facebook, which is after all a non mandatory, non essential service, which most of its users use for idle pastime.

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.

A lot of people in this thread seem to be making a Thermian Argument[1]:

> 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.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxV8gAGmbtk

You're looking into it way too much. This has happened every single time the term "whale" has been used in any article pertaining to gambling in the past couple years. This has nothing to do with ethics. Every industry has its overloaded words/phrases that outsiders would be confused upon first hearing. This is why context is of paramount importance (something that's often lost in mediums that are ripe for hot takes, like Twitter).

Don't try to turn this into something it's not.

Uh, have you used a lot of words to try to explain that names gain their meaning by how they are used?

Thanks for the new way to express this fact, but I honestly don't see what you are arguing.

This outrage culture is getting to be a bit much.

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.

It reveals the attitude that pervades among these companies towards children that have been duped into spending via dark patterns and addictive games.

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.

Forget for a moment that they're calling children whales.

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.

Most high-dollar industries have clients that are referred to as whales (gambling, forex, stock exchanges, crypto markets). Facebook didn't normalize it. It's a term that has been use for years.

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.

> Most high-dollar industries have clients that are referred to as whales (gambling, forex, stock exchanges, crypto markets).

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"?

Who are you disagreeing with? I never said it was "okay". I just explained the term. Check it out: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_roller

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..

You are justifying widespread use of a dehumanizing term by its widespread use. I think, you should revisit your line of reasoning, especially from a historical perspective concerning other terms certain groups were called by.

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.

I think you should revisit your emotional reasoning. I explained a term. Your vague comment about "certain groups" names, doesn't add anything to the conversation, nor address anything that I said.

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..

They are applying a term that originally describes an adult, and in this context the term "whale" is very clearly connected to several aspects of being an adult, onto a child. Now any descriptive term means the speaker considers there is some sort of equality between all the objects they describe with the term.

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".

Or maybe they called the user a whale, because as a software engineer, the user is simply a "number on a screen", and that this "number", is spending 100x more $ than all of the other "numbers" (aka, users). So you might refer to that "number" as a whale, by comparison.

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

Right, the fact that children are affected by all of the mess on the internet is the last line of defense, the last chance to complain, since adults are fair game.

All of us are rational actors who should dicuss EULAs with their lawyers and fully understand and evaluate the consequences of tracking and surveillance.

normalized calling people whales

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.

> It reveals the attitude that pervades among these companies towards children that have been duped into spending via dark patterns and addictive games.

All video games are addicting. To a kid's perspective, they're just playing a regular game.

Uh, I guess there is always someone out there that can get addicted to your game, but to call Myst addicting is a bit weird.

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".

Some games are more addicting than others, but I don't see how Candy Crush Saga can be worse for a child than Bejeweled, for example.

Whale is a gambling term. Which shows exactly what was happening here, Facebook (and yes, a lot of the gaming industry) provides gambling to kids. It should be illegal. And no, you won't shame me into not being outraged by it.

Yeah I'm sure the employee in question used the term explicitly because he or she gets off on corrupting 5 yr old brains as a hobby.


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.

>This outrage culture is getting to be a bit much.

[HN user proceeds to post his outrage at outrage culture]

That’s awesome, reminds me of the movie PCU, where the students protest protesting.

I think you are misinterpreting the backlash with the article and what's been happening overall.

> 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.

It doesn’t matter if it was marketed to them or not. They have both a moral and legal duty of care to protect children.

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.

Of course they have a duty to protect children or at the very least not knowingly market to children.

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?"

Presumably if they were using an industry term to categorize these young children they were definitely aware of what they were doing. That implies a level of malice on their part and is what I believe people are actually outraged about, not simply the usage of the term.

It's not unjustified "outrage culture". It's Facebook's actual outrageous, egregious behavior, repeated over and over again, that is getting to be too much.

> Have at it HN.

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.

Counterpoint: how you contextually frame something says something about how you value it. Facebook, by calling young kids “whales” (a term usually reserved for corporate arenas and large clients) objectified what was actually happening such that they could wipe their conscience clean of the badness of it.

Have at it, askafriend.

> This outrage culture is getting to be a bit much.

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.

Related: "Is there an actual Facebook crisis, or media narrative about Facebook crisis?"


So sick of seeing this junk on HN every day.

You, and the other facebook [ex-]employees in this discussion, have an ethical responsibility to disclose that you've worked at the company being criticized.

Moreover the Facebook requires that its users be above 13+ to use it, but these kids/their parents are in violation of that.

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.

@askafriend: You are totally missing the point. I am not saying you don’t have a point. Just that your point is completely irrelevant to the context and sentiment of the post. Just because you have a valid point from a domain perspective doesn’t mean it’s applicable to any and all discussions within a domain. Considering asking a friend on it :)

The parents probably won't even pay those bills. They'll just call the credit card company, dispute the charge, and tell them it must be an error. No individual generally sees those sorts of charges from Facebook.

I would like to see a source for this quantitative claim.

$100 on Facebook, sure. $1000, probably not. $10K, no way. The CC company is going to believe it is an error. It is wayyyyy out of line. No source is needed.

> "The parents probably won't even pay those bills."

If that were certain, then it's irrational for facebook to refuse the refund.

Of course, it's not certain. I said probably. There is a difference between FB giving a refund and a credit card dispute. The dispute may fail and they will be forced to pay , since the charges are technically legitimate. If Facebook simply refunds them, there is no chance of them paying. The rational thing for FB is to never refund them, take what you can get...

This is what you took away from this article?

The headline implies that "Whale" is used with explicit malicious intent towards young children. People are taking that and running with it, rather than discussing the details of the actual story which are far more nuanced.

The entire piece starts with a faulty, provocative implication that has no basis in reality.

But the optics aren't good

Completely agree with you sentiment. In the cryptocurrency world, a whale is referred to some that owns a lot of a cryptocurrency because they 'make a splash' in the ecosystem. Getting kind of tired seeing daily Facebook posts on HN

Lots us are fed up with seeing almost daily posts about the dodgy behaviour that Facebook employees get up.

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.

Everyone knows what whale means in the context of sales and marketing. I feel like this thread is missing the forest for the trees. It’s the immorality of trying to get young children hooked on gambling that people are angry about, not that they’re being equated to the mammal.

I'd argue it's bad parenting and lack of education. Don't parent's realize you can get notifications when ever there is a charge on a credit card? Why would you give your child who has no concept of financial responsibility a credit card?

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.

When Facebook exploits a child who has bad parents, there are two roots to the problem. If facebook thinks children with bad parents are fair game (they obviously do) then they are deeply immoral.

Define "deeply immoral". I'm sure we'll have different interpretations and so do many others (obviously). Completely disagree that there are two root problems. It's still one and that's the parents. Media and social companies are not obligated to tailor to bad parents.

I think you've been hitting the libertarian juice a bit too hard if you need somebody to explain why exploiting children is morally wrong.

Define "morally wrong". You're failing to understand that people with differing principles doesn't make yours any more 'correct'.

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.

> Define "morally wrong".

Yeah, you hit that libertarian sauce way too hard. Stop worshiping money and relearn how to respect humans.

Thanks for sharing your perspective and beating around the bush.

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.


The only Facebook “thing” my daughters are getting (until they are independent enough to decide for themselves) is PyTorch.

React isnt a terrible thing either.

Or GraphQL

Or OSQuery

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