Facebook let advertisers buy ads targeting 'Jew haters'

Terry Joseph
September 16, 2017

Facebook's action came hours after the New York-based non-profit news organization ProPublica reported that Facebook's ad-buying platform allowed advertisers to target users who, in their field of study or work, have listed themselves with phrases like "Jew haters".

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. Those fields can no longer be targeted by ads.

According to an investigation by ProPublica, ads on the popular social media site could be directed towards Facebook users who fell under categories such as "Jew hater", "German Schutzstaffel", also known as the Nazi SS, "Nazi Party", and "Hitler did not nothing wrong".

The embarrassing finding comes just a week after a Facebook internal review showed that hundreds of Russia-linked fake accounts were used to buy approximately $100,000 worth of ads aimed at inflaming political tensions ahead of and following the 2016 USA presidential election. Next, the Slate dug deeper and found many more offensive and hate topics in auto suggestions that Facebook offered to advertisers. One category had only two Facebook users in it.

Facebook's targeted advertising feature allows advertisers to focus on specific groups of people that are more likely to be interested in their products or services. Moreover, Leathern shared that the company will add more guard rails and review processes to prevent similar issues to pop up in the future.

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The social network said Friday that its community standards "strictly prohibit attacking people based on their protected characteristics, including religion, and we prohibit advertisers from discriminating against people based on religion and other attributes".

Last week, Facebook revealed that during the 2016 election cycle it sold thousands of advertisements to fake accounts likely operated out of Russian Federation. The categories are generated based on the expressed interests of users, or what Facebook can infer about users' interests.

ProPublica informed Facebook about the situation and asked them to take such hateful advertisement categories down, which it did. Facebook spokesman Joe Osborne told ProPublica, "We have looked at the use of these audiences and campaigns and it's not common or widespread".

However, he said, there were times when information appeared on Facebook that violated its standards. Facebook was also recently criticized for allowing hate groups like neo-Nazis to thrive on its platform.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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