Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg: Allowing advertisers to target ‘Jew haters’ was ‘totally inappropriate and a fail’

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said Wednesday that the tech firm is keeping a closer eye on who advertisers reach on the social media site after ProPublica discovered that users could target ads at “Jew haters.”

“Seeing those words made me disgusted and disappointed – disgusted by these sentiments and disappointed that our systems allowed this,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “Hate has no place on Facebook – and as a Jew, as a mother, and as a human being, I know the damage that can come from hate.”

The fact that the tech firm even had this option for ad targeting was “totally inappropriate and a fail on our part,” she said.

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When Facebook learned of the offensive categories, it removed them. Facebook users were filling out offensive content in the education or employer fields of their profiles, which allowed advertisers to target those audiences.

The tech firm then temporarily removed the education and employer fields from ad targeting as it reviewed the issue.

While Facebook noted that targeting ads at “Jew haters” was rare, it also shouldered the blame for not catching the option sooner.

“We never intended or anticipated this functionality being used this way – and that is on us,” Sandberg said. “And we did not find it ourselves – and that is also on us.”

Facebook is beefing up its enforcement of ads that run afoul of its online rules, including hate speech, she said. Human reviewers will evaluate new ad targeting options to make sure that offensive terms do not appear.

The tech firm reinstated about 5,000 commonly used terms for ad targeting such as nurse, teacher or dentistry after reviewing the ad targeting categories.

Facebook, which has more than 2 billion users, is also working on a program to encourage users to report ads that violate the tech firm’s rules.

The Anti-Defamation League, an organization that fights anti-Semitism and hate, applauded Facebook’s response.

Photo: Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. (Eric Risberg/AP)

 

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