Facebook Ads Could Be Programmed to Reach 'Jew Haters' and 'NaziParty' Workers

Advertisers may not be able to micro-target certain fields

Advertisers may not be able to micro-target certain fields

San Francisco: Facebook has stopped advertisers from targeting messages to people interested in topics such as "Jew haters" and "how to burn Jews" after journalists inquired about it, the news organisation ProPublica reported on Thursday.

In addition to locating anti-Semitic audiences using Facebook's own tools, reporters successfully placed ads targeting those users, confirming that it was as easy as targeting any other interest or affinity on the world's foremost social media platform.

After it was informed, Facebook removed the antisemitic advertising categories, which had been created by an algorithm and not by humans. The categories are generated based on the expressed interests of users, or what Facebook can infer about users' interests.

"There are times where content is surfaced on our platform that violates our standards", Rob Leathern, product management director at Facebook, told the website.

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"We know we have more work to do, so we're also building new guardrails in our product and review processes to prevent other issues like this from happening in the future", Leathern said. Earlier this month, Facebook disclosed that a group that appeared to be based in Russian Federation had spent $100,000 on ads promoting political messages in a two-year period.

ProPublica, acting on a tip, found that a handful of categories autocompleted themselves when their researchers entered "jews h" into the advertising category search box.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg responded to the bloodshed by writing that "there is no place for hate in our community" and that the site was committed to removing content that "promotes or celebrates hate crimes or acts of terrorism".

In its report, ProPublica noted that the objectionable ad categories were very small. After ProPublica's article appeared, Facebook built a system that it said would prevent such ads from being approved.

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This wasn't the first time that Pro Publica found disconcerting ad targeting possibilities on Facebook.

Last year, ProPublica also collected a list of the advertising categories Facebook was providing to advertisers.

Instead, the system suggested "Second Amendment" as an additional category that would boost the audience size to 119,000 people because clearly the algorithm thinks anti-Semites and guns go hand-in-hand.

A 2013 post from the company specifically names Jewish people as a group frequently targeted by threats and hate speech on the platform.

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A few days later, Facebook sent us the results of our campaigns. Facebook data showed the ads reached 5,897 people, generating 101 clicks, and 13 "engagements" such as a "like" a "share" or a comment on a post. The outlet says "Muslim haters", for instance, wasn't available. Facebook didn't have them.

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