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Facebook apologizes, bans advertiser who used photo of dead teenager

The Facebook logo is pictured at the Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California January 29, 2013. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith
The Facebook logo is pictured at the Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California January 29, 2013. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

By Andrea Hopkins

TORONTO (Reuters) - Facebook Inc said on Wednesday it has banned an advertiser that used photographs of a deceased Canadian bullying victim in an ad for an online dating website.

A Facebook user noticed the ad, which featured a photo of Rehtaeh Parsons, a 17-year-old Halifax girl who died after a suicide attempt that followed months of cyber bullying and an alleged sexual assault.

The user posted screen grabs of the ad to Twitter, provoking immediate outrage and a quick response from Facebook.

"This is an extremely unfortunate example of an advertiser scraping an image from the Internet and using it in their ad campaign," a spokeswoman for Facebook said in an email.

She said the ad was removed as soon as it came to their attention, and the advertiser's account was permanently deleted.

"This is a gross violation of our ad policies," the spokeswoman said. "We apologize for any harm this has caused."

The ad was for the online dating site ionechat.com, which placed the photo of Parsons next to text that read "Meet Canadian girls and women for friendship, dating or relationships. Signup now!"

Parsons' father, Glen Canning, condemned the ad.

"I am completely bewildered and disgusted by this. This is my daughter, Rehtaeh. They have her in an ad for meeting singles. I don't even know what to say," Canning wrote in his blog.

The website for ionechat was not available on Wednesday.

The Parsons case has been widely followed in Canada and abroad. People magazine put her photo on its cover to illustrate a story on the consequences of online harassment among teenagers.

(Reporting by Andrea Hopkins; Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson and Andrew Hay)

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