Facebook allowed advertisers to target ‘Jew haters’

Facebook lets advertisers reach people based on various interests, but there’s one audience that raised eyebrows: “Jew haters.”

ProPublica discovered that the social media giant allowed advertisers to target nearly 2,300 people who expressed interest in “Jew haters,” “How to burn Jews,” or the “History of why Jews ruin the world.”

The nonprofit tested these anti-Semitic ad categories by purchasing ads totaling $30 to reach these audiences. Facebook, which is led by a Jewish CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, removed the categories this week after ProPublica contacted the company.

“There are times where content is surfaced on our platform that violates our standards,” Rob Leathern, Facebook’s product management director said in a statement to SiliconBeat. “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.”

This isn’t the first time the tech firm has faced criticism over the type of ads it runs.

Facebook revealed this month that fake accounts and pages that likely have ties to Russia spent $100,000 in divisive political ads during and after the U.S. presidential election.

Last year, the tech firm vowed to make changes after ProPublica discovered that it could buy housing ads that exclude users with African-American, Asian-American and Hispanic ethnic affinities in the United States.

So how exactly did these categories end up on Facebook in the first place?

Facebook’s ad tools automatically generated these categories based on their users’ online activities and what they share.

ProPublica claimed that the categories were “created by an algorithm,” but a Facebook spokesperson said in an e-mail that the categories were “self-reported based on how people filled out their profiles.”

The tech firm, which noted that ad campaign targeting these groups wasn’t widespread, said it will no longer allow advertisers to target users based on how they fill out their education or employer. Some people were filling out those fields with offensive responses.

“Keeping our community safe is critical to our mission. And to help ensure that targeting is not used for discriminatory purposes, we are removing these self-reported targeting fields until we have the right processes in place to help prevent this issue,” Facebook said in a statement.

Slate reported that it found other offensive audiences available for ad targeting, including “Kill Muslimic Radicals,” “How kill jewish” and “Pillage the women and rape the village
.”

While Facebook has vowed to crack down on hate speech before, the latest revelation by ProPublica is yet another reminder that the tech firm still has more work to do.

Photo by Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

 

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