Facebook has made changes to its ad targeting, after it was revealed that it allowed advertisers to place ads directly targeting anti-Semites.
Non-profit investigative journalism publication ProPublica found that it was able to direct advertising toward people that expressed interest in the topics of “Jew hater”, “How to burn jews”, and “History of ‘why jews ruin the world’”.
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.
Prior to the removal, the social network offered advertisers the opportunity to target people based on their education and employer fields – on top of targeting based on age, location, and interests. In the case of ProPublica’s findings, advertisers were able to target those that put “Jew hater” as their field of study. There was even a category called “Hitler did nothing wrong”, and ProPublica managed to target both the Nazi SS and the Nazi Party. In the end, with the addition of other far-right groups, ProPublica’s ads reached 5,897 people.
“Hate speech and discriminatory advertising have no place on our platform. Our 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,” said Facebook.
“As people fill in their education or employer on their profile, we have found a small percentage of people who have entered offensive responses, in violation of our policies. ProPublica surfaced that these offensive education and employer fields were showing up in our ads interface as targetable audiences for campaigns. We immediately removed them. Given that the number of people in these segments was incredibly low, an extremely small number of people were targeted in these campaigns.”