CIPR's #AIinPR Panel welcomes Facebook's decision to block Spinner for "unethical" practices

The CIPR's #AIinPR panel welcomes Facebook’s move to block Israeli company The Spinner - which claims to "subconsciously alter people’s behaviour" - from operating on its platform.

Facebook issued a cease and desist letter to The Spinner banning it from Facebook and Instagram on Friday, January 17.

The Spinner uses fake accounts and fake Facebook Pages to strategically target Facebook users with advertisements, through using sophisticated algorithms, exposing them to online posts disguised as editorial content.

The Spinner claimed it could manipulate a target for a relatively small fee, brainwashing targets selected by paying customers into taking action they otherwise wouldn't have for things such as quitting smoking or proposing marriage.


On Januray 23 The Spinner's VP of Social and Media, Elliot Shefler, emailed CIPR requesting we include the company's response to our news piece along with several screenshots of adverts from a variety of websites. Their full response reads:

"The Spinner never promised the ads would appear specifically on Facebook or any other ad network. Messages may be exposed on major social networks, thousands of news sites, mail apps, games, anywhere you see ads.

Most of the time the target is exposed to the chosen message on news websites. See screenshots.

The Spinner's ability to deliver content to targeted users is not dependent on any specific social account or page. It's a concept.

The Spinner does not promote fake news but reliable content from major news sites.

Continuous exposure to repetitive headlines and images delivering the campaign messages has been shown to be highly effective."

One screenshot he attached, below and not edited, describes how The Spinner's algorithm would "strategically bombard" users that clicked the sponsored links.

Kerry Sheehan Chart.PR, FCIPR, CIPR Artificial Intelligence Chair
We absolutely condemn this kind of unethical practice and do not recognise it as part of our work in public relations. Companies are looking at more ways to try and influence people online through unethical artificial intelligence-led tactics, which rogue PRs are utilising for targeting people and attempting to alter their behaviour without being transparent.

The more we call out this kind of unethical PR, the more practitioners, organisations and businesses become aware of it and that it has no place in the role of proper and ethical public relations.
Kerry Sheehan Chart.PR, FCIPR, CIPR Artificial Intelligence Chair
CIPR President, Jenni Field Chart.PR, FCIPR
It is right to call out this clearly unethical practice. The more sophisticated algorithms become, the more we may see of this "dark", digital PR. We are absolutely clear that the CIPR does not in any way sanction this kind of unethical behaviour in public relations from our members.

This highlights the importance of ethical practice and the value of membership to a body like CIPR. Being bound by a code of conduct is more than a badge. Businesses need to be trusted and this should go as far as the professionalism and behaviour of the staff they employ.
CIPR President, Jenni Field Chart.PR, FCIPR