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When Facebook gets it wrong, it gets it very, very wrong.
Facebook algorithms are notoriously fickle. One day, it might seem like the ads are nothing less than mirror images of your innermost needs and desires; the next, they’ll offer you a deal on surfing lessons, despite the fact that you live in a Midwestern town where the nearest body of water is a lobster tank at Publix.
So when Facebook gets it wrong, it gets it very, very wrong.
Erika Napoletano—an author, marketing expert, and former TEDTalk speaker who blogs at RedHead Writing—learned this firsthand when Facebook started confusing her with a Canadian adult model. A few weeks ago, friends and followers bombarded Napoletano with messages after Facebook linked them to Camille Crimson, an adult cam model and webmaster who markets herself as a “geeky redhead blowjob devotee” (Warning: NSFW).
Facebook seemed to think Crimson’s pages, the Art of Blowjob and Slow-Motion Blowjob, had much in common with Napoletano’s.
Screengrabs via RedHead Writing
Although both women have red hair and are fairly well-known in their respective industries—Napoletano’s Facebook page has 11,000 likes, while Crimson’s has 15,000—all the two bloggers share are a similar approach to online self-branding and high levels of pheomelanin.
That’s why at first, Napoletano assumed Crimson had launched a Facebook ad campaign targeting certain keywords and interests (like “red hair” or “redhead”), which resulted in ads for her website popping up on Napoletano’s followers’ newsfeeds. Yet when Napoletano reached out to Crimson, the adult star claimed that she was unaware of the “similar-to” pairing, and had not been running Facebook ads. “So yeah—this is all the work of Facebook’s awesome algorithms,” Napoletano concluded on her blog. “They’re drunk.”
Both women seem to have taken the confusion in good stride, with Napoletano adopting an “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” approach and temporarily transforming her Facebook page into “my version of redheaded porn” (including steamy, semi-nude glamour shots of herself with her dog), then using the images to attempt to promote herself in Crimson’s network. (Facebook wouldn’t offer Crimson’s page for targeting, Napoletano said.)
Photo via RedHead Writing
Screengrab via RedHead Writing
Camille Crimson used the snafu to criticize Facebook’s limitations on advertising adult content. “This is too funny to be true,” she tweeted about Napoletano’s blog post. “Note: I didn’t buy Facebook ads, they just think all redheads are the same.” She called it a “Facebook FAIL.”
So what can we learn from this? That no matter how hard Facebook algorithms try, they’ll never know you and your friends as well as you know yourselves. Probably because they’re drunk. And, also, that everyone should probably put “blowjob devotee” on their résumés.
Correction: An original version of this story implied Crimson wrote “I guess all publicity is good publicity… potentially” about Napoletano’s blog. She was actually referring to an Adweek article that, for a brief time, mistakenly suggested Crimson targeted Napoletano’s page with ads. Crimson’s “actual response to Erika’s idea was universally positive,” wrote Sophie Delancey, writing for Crimson on our comments page. On Twitter, Crimson wrote, “I don’t buy Facebook advertising and didn’t target anyone. It speaks to just how funny us pornstars are to the mainstream.”
EJ Dickson is a writer and editor who primarily covers sex, dating, and relationships, with a special focus on the intersection of intimacy and technology. She served as the Daily Dot’s IRL editor from January 2014 to July 2015. Her work has since appeared in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Mic, Bustle, Romper, and Men’s Health.