Facebook apologized today for allowing a dating site to run an ad enticing men to “Find Love in Canada,” over a photograph of a 17-year-old girl who committed suicide in April after being cyber-bullied.
“Meet Canadian girls and women for friendship, dating or relationships,” the ad placed by ionechat.com implored, next to a picture of Rehtaeh Parsons.
When she was 15 years old, Parsons (pictured) was gang-raped by four underage boys, her parents allege. Someone took a picture of one of the boys raping the teenager and distributed it on the internet. And then the harassment began.
"She was never left alone. She had to leave the community, her mother, Leah Parsons, said. “Her friends turned against her. People harassed her. Boys she didn't know started texting her and Facebooking her asking her to have sex with them. It just never stopped.”
In April of this year, Rehteah hanged herself. She was later taken off a life support machine and died in a hospital.
Ionechat.com has not been reached for comment as to how or why they chose Parsons’ photo to run with the dating ad, whether it was intentional as some kind of sick joke, or just an unfortunate accident.
Facebook, in a statement e-mailed to the media, took the latter view.
"This is an extremely unfortunate example of an advertiser scraping an image from the Internet and using it in their ad campaign," the company said. “This is a gross violation of our ad policies and we have removed the ad and permanently deleted the advertiser's account. We apologize for any harm this has caused."
The Parsons family was understandably revolted by the ad. The deceased girl’s father said he was “disgusted” when he heard about it.