Buzzfeed is a funny place. Although still dominated by lazily-recycled content, it is continuing to build a reasonable stable of actual writers doing interesting work.
Staff writer Katie Notopoulos recently discovered a disturbing connection between "Pro-Ana" Tumblr posts (where anorexia sufferers proudly share their emaciated pictures) and targeted ads for a diet program.
It turns out that these keyword-targeted ads point to FatLossFactor.com. Ms. Notopoulos notes that they appear to be targeting the words "thinspo" (short for "thin-spiration") and "starve":
The ads are targeted by someone with an intimate knowledge of how the pro-ana Tumblr community works, exploiting the types of tags popular among young women encouraging one another in eating disorders, and targeting the ultra-thin images they find most appealing. In many instances, the ads are reblogged by others in the community, amplifying the ad’s message further.
She also found FatLossFactor.com ads linked to the keyword “scars”:
Eating disorders and the direct self-harm of "cutting" are often linked, and are believed to stem from the same types of anxiety.
When contacted by Buzzfeed, FatLossFactor.com founder insisted he was not knowingly involved in placing the pro-ana ads for his products, and said he had instructed his vendor to "blacklist the affiliate" when he learned of the campaign. (However, he added that it was not possible for him to determine the identity of the affiliate based on the information he had.) The ads were placed by third parties using the ClickBank affiliate network.
This isn't the first time social media ads have shown up on pro-anorexia posts. In another Buzzfeed staff post, Amy Odell discovered that by purchasing the keywords "thigh" and "Gap" on Twitter (the latter presumably to stick it to the competition) Levi's accidentally endorsed a bunch of Pro-Ana "thigh gap" posts:
Internet advertising can be a sketchy business.