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Facebook Faces More Blowback on Kids In-App Purchases

Another day, another boulder catapulted from the Hill at a huge target in the Valley (as in Silicon). Or, "Why is that thumb still pointed up?"

Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) have called on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to "end friendly fraud on Facebook" (say that three times fast). 

That came in yet another letter from legislators to the beleaguered social media giant, this one in response to what they say was the evidence that third-party game developers manipulated kids into spending their parents' money--in-app purchases. 

That evidence was provided by the Center for Investigative Reporting, which filed a complaint against the comany with the Federal Trade Commission and said Facebook knew kids were spending that money without their parents' say-so. 

The senators said Facebook still has not instituted policy changes to address that complaint. They first wrote to Zuckerberg about the issue in January, and were not happy with Facebook's initial answers. 

"Facebook’s actions thus far have failed to demonstrate a commitment to ending friendly fraud on your platform," they wrote in their latest epistle. They said it appears that Facebook is "unwilling to address the problem of young users spending their families’ money without parental awareness or consent," adding: "Profiting off the mistakes and deception of children can never be considered fair.” 

If it is not fair, the Federal Trade Commission can step in using its authority against unfair or deceptive practices. 

John Eggerton
John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.