Rehtaeh Parsons died in April following an attempted suicide (Facebook)
Rehtaeh Parsons died in April following an attempted suicide (Facebook)

Facebook has apologised after it ran an advert for a dating website which featured a photograph of 17-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons who killed herself to escape bullying.

The adverts promoted dating website and used an image of the Novia Scotia teenager who was taken off a life-support machine two days after she was found hanged in the bathroom of her home.

It is believed she attempted suicide after being bullied for 18 months when a photograph of her allegedly being raped by four boys at a house party in 2011 appeared online and was circulated around her school.

The adverts were spotted by Andrew Ennals, of Toronto, who screen-grabbed the advert and posted them on his Twitter account. He called them "supreme bad taste".

A second advert using a different image of the 17-year-old was also discovered on Facebook.

Once the images went viral online, the social media site removed the offending ads, describing them as a "gross violation" of Facebook policies.

A spokesperson said: "This is an extremely unfortunate example of an advertiser scraping an image from the internet and using it in their ad campaign.

"This is a gross violation of our ad policies and we have removed the ad and permanently deleted the advertiser's account.

"We apologise for any harm this has caused."

Facebook added that it has removed all adverts.

The teenager's father, Glen Canning, described his disgust that his daughter's image was used for a dating website.

He wrote in a blogpost: "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."

Her mother, Leah Parsons, claims using Rehtaeh's photo was "deliberate to get the attention drawn to the dating site".

Two men have been charged with distributing child pornography in connection with the case. They are expected to enter pleas on 19 September.

Rehtaeh's death prompted Novia Scotia's government to set up a police unit dedicated to investigating cyber-bullies. It is expected to become active by the end of the year.