Facebook Developing 'Talk,' a Messaging Service For Teens

Social media powerhouse reportedly seeks to extend its reach to a younger demographic

Credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty

Facebook is making moves to maintain its place as a relevant social media platform at a time of intense competition with newer distractions, including fidget spinners and an endless string of Snapchat filters. And part of that is creating new ways to communicate through its apps, designed specifically for teens.

"Code inside the main Facebook app points to an unreleased messaging app aimed at young teens called 'Talk,' which hasn’t been previously reported," The Information reports. "The code reveals signs of new parental controls that would set the app apart from Facebook’s existing Messenger app. For example, a reference to unreleased features, written in plain-English text in the code, says, 'Talk is a messaging app where you fully control the contacts.' Another command states, 'Your child uses the Talk app to chat with you in Messenger.'"

According to the site, the app will be restricted to users 13 years or older, and teens wouldn't need their own Facebook profile to access the app. Perhaps just as importantly, teens who use Talk won't be publicly searchable, a safety precaution that could help eliminate the danger of teens being approached online by strangers.

The app has not yet been announced, though it does seem to align with Facebook’s recent push to better understand their younger users. Last month, Facebook showed advertisers how it can monitor posts and photos obtained in real time to determine whether certain users are feeling "stressed," "defeated," "overwhelmed," "anxious," "nervous," "stupid," "silly," "useless," and a "failure."

In the 23-page document leak (first reported by The Australian), Facebook claimed that it could help advertisers pinpoint "moments when young people need a confidence boost." Other parts of the document focused on body image and weight loss, dissecting the ways in which image-recognition tools are used on Instagram and Facebook. The report, co-authored by Facebook employees Andy Sinn and David Fernandez, garnered criticism, and in response, Facebook released a statement.

"On May 1, 2017, The Australian posted a story regarding research done by Facebook and subsequently shared with an advertiser," the statement reads. "The premise of the article is misleading. 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."