'Jew Haters', 'KKK': Facebook Launches Probe Into Site's Ad Targeting System

Trevor Jackson
September 16, 2017

ProPublica reported Thursday that Facebook's platform allowed advertisers to target users who had entered terms such as "jew hater" in the education or employment fields of their personal profiles. Facebook's ad-placing algorithms automatically turn users' self-declared interests into advertising categories. Facebook reportedly approved the three ads within 15 minutes. "However, there are times where content is surfaced on our platform that violates our standards".

Only Wednesday, Facebook took another step toward cleaning itself up with an extremely thorough new set of guidelines to protect companies from having their ads appear on any kind of controversial content.

But while some have been using these self-reporting fields to make harmless jokes, others have been using them to spew hatred - and it's been revealed that advertisers could have specifically targeted these individuals. After some internal investigation, the company found that both the accounts that purchased the ads and the pages they advertised were from Russian Federation, suggesting that there's a fake news circle operating out of the country.

In its report, ProPublica noted that the objectionable ad categories were very small.

Facebook said it will keep the service shut down until the problem is resolved.

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

ProPublica said the anti-Semitic categories were created by an algorithm and they were removed by Facebook after the company was made aware.

In the wake of this revelation, Facebook quickly responded by removing "self-reported targeting fields" until it can find a way to prevent the issue arising again in the future.

Facebook equips businesses with powerful ways to reach the right people with the right message. Next, the Slate dug deeper and found many more offensive and hate topics in auto suggestions that Facebook offered to advertisers. But there are restrictions on how audience targeting can be used on Facebook.

Facebook has also recently faced backlash for allowing hate groups, including neo-Nazis, to flourish and organize on the platform, contradicting Mark Zuckerberg's statements about his site bringing people together for "meaningful" groups. In the wake of the violent protests in Charlottesville by right-wing groups that included self-described Nazis, Facebook and other tech companies vowed to strengthen their monitoring of hate speech.

Other reports by TheDailyFarc

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