A potential nightmare for parents was recently highlighted when kids Facebook spending was allegedly referred to as “whale tickets” in internal company communications that were recently unsealed by a federal judge. The documents were part of a 2012 class action lawsuit brought against the social media company following allegations that they profited off of purchases made in games by minors. Reveal News reports that these documents show a Facebook employee describes a $6,545 bill as a “whale” ticket prior to agreeing with another employee to decline a refund of the disputed charge.
The term “whale” is most commonly known as a gambling term for players who have a tendency to spend a lot of money at a casino establishment. Typically, whales might waltz into a gambling establishment and spend hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars, sometimes winning and sometimes not. As a result, casinos tend to provide extra service to these high-value customers. “Whale,” in this context, has since been adopted by the gaming industry to similarly describe gamers who would spend large amounts of money, often on free-to-play games. Unfortunately, this term was reportedly used in an instance of kids Facebook spending.
The kids’ frequent Facebook spending resulted from payment details being saved to the platform. While a parent might authorize an initial purchase, it was entirely possible for a child — perhaps unknowingly — to continue to spend real-world dollars while playing a game. The court documents reportedly showed children as young as five had managed to rack up bills in the hundreds or thousands of dollars.
Kids Facebook spending can occasionally get a little out of control, but it seems that the social media company’s failsafes and refund mechanisms for these extreme cases weren’t exactly up to snuff prior to legal action being undertaken by parents. The negative perception surrounding this issue isn’t likely to be helped after some of these internal documents have been made public. More documents are expected to be made public in the coming days and we may very well see more details surrounding this issue.