SYDNEY: Internal Facebook documents indicate that it has carried out research in Australia enabling it to target young people at vulnerable moments, but the social media giant has rejected any suggestion such information has been sold to advertisers.

The Australian reported that Facebook, through the use of its algorithms, could identify "moments when young people need a confidence boost" – such as when they feel "stressed" or "overwhelmed", "anxious" or "nervous", "stupid" or "useless".

In addition to detecting such moments, the study observed trends in how this demographic expresses emotions over the course of a week.

"Anticipatory emotions are more likely to be expressed early in the week, while reflective emotions increase on the weekend," the document said. "Monday-Thursday is about building confidence; the weekend is for broadcasting achievements."

"The premise of the article is misleading," a Facebook spokesperson stated. "Facebook does not offer tools to target people based on their emotional state.

"The analysis done by an Australian researcher was intended to help marketers understand how people express themselves on Facebook. It was never used to target ads and was based on data that was anonymous and aggregated."

The spokesperson did add that the research had not followed an established process and that "we are reviewing the details to correct the oversight".

Three years ago, Facebook was revealed to have manipulated the news feeds of more than half a million users without telling them in order to examine how emotions could be spread on social media.

"Emotions expressed by others on Facebook influence our own emotions, constituting experimental evidence for massive-scale contagion via social networks," that study found.

Data sourced from The Australian, Mumbrella; additional content by WARC staff