Facebook rushes ad update after disturbing 'Jew haters' report

Posted September 16, 2017

In an email to Fox News, a Facebook spokeswoman said the anti-Semitic categories were "self-reported based on how people filled out their profiles".

Facebook has allowed advertising to target users interested in the topics of "Jew hater" and "How to burn Jews", according to an investigation that adds to mounting criticisms of the way the company allows and profits from unethical ads.

ProPublica tested the claims by buying $30 worth of targeted ad space in the anti-Semitic categories. Facebook reportedly approved the three ads within 15 minutes.

"There are times where content is surfaced on our platform that violates our standards", Rob Leathern, Facebook's product management director told ProPublica.

But Facebook said that the posts were possible because a "small percentage" of users put "offensive responses" in their profiles' education or employer fields.

To ensure that such things don't come up in the future, the company said it plans to make the screening process tougher for categories before they are added in the self-service platform.

Facebook responded to the Pro Publica report by shutting down "field of study" as a targeting category.

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Last week, Facebook revealed that during the 2016 election cycle it sold thousands of advertisements to fake accounts likely operated out of Russian Federation.

The nasty ad targeting was uncovered by ProPublica, a "nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism with moral force". One category had only two Facebook users in it.

Facebook removed the categories after being alerted to their existence and said it would seek to prevent such categories from popping up for potential advertisers. In this case, we've removed the associated targeting fields in... It technically isn't just Facebook, anyone can try to buy keywords to target Jew Haters on Google - well, maybe.

The organization highlights that Facebook manages its ad business through automation, meaning that algorithms take care of everything they can possibly take care of.

"We won't always be flawless, but you have my commitment that we'll keep working to make Facebook a place where everyone can feel safe", he wrote.

Here's how it worked: Advertisers target campaigns by specifying the groups of people they are interested in reaching. Initially, CEO Mark Zuckerberg dismissed critics' assertion that Facebook helped sway the vote in President Donald Trump's vote as a "pretty insane idea".