Facebook allowed advertisers to target anti-Semites

Posted September 16, 2017

Facebook has made changes to its ad targeting, after it was revealed that it allowed advertisers to place ads directly targeting anti-Semites.

After ProPublica accused Facebook of allowing marketers to target "Jew haters", the social networking giant is temporarily disabling the features that let them do it.

Facebook insisted ad campaigns using anti-Semitic categories on Facebook were not widespread.

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It reportedly took Facebook no more than 15 minutes to approve all three of the targeted ads.

Facebook product management director Rob Leathern issued a statement saying that content that violates their standards would often come up on the site. On Thursday, these three journalists told the world how "Facebook Enabled Advertisers to Reach 'Jew Haters'". The company added that it would explore ways to prevent similarly offensive ad targeting categories from appearing in the future. One category had only two Facebook users in it.

Facebook has already faced increasing pressure to fix its algorithms and advertising practices when it comes to promoting and showing content that is deemed fake news, and came under fire when it admitted to selling political ads to what were probably Russian accounts.

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Facebook has been forced to amend its ad targeting policies after an investigation by ProPublica found that the social network was permitting advertisers to target individuals with anti-Semitic beliefs. But Facebook's algorithms had suggestions to boost the audience size, including to people who like gun rights.

Later, Harvard's research fellow Joshua Benton wrote on Twitter that internet users can also find similar categories using Google AdWords, but their range is even broader.

Leathern said in his statement Thursday: "We don't allow hate speech on Facebook". The absurdity of the idea of Facebook pooling together people associated with such hateful characteristics for brands to advertise to - so that Facebook could profit - is only overshadowed by the fact that Facebook did. After the ad was approved, Facebook also automatically described the advert as targeting people interested in "Antysemityzm", a Polish word.

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This is another embarrassment for world's largest social media platform as it struggles with how not to be exploited by insidious people or groups and still stick to the task of what Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg's likes to say as "connecting the world".