Facebook Allowed Advertisements to Target 'Jew Haters', Report Says

Frederick Owens
September 15, 2017

ProPublica, an investigative news organization, reported on Thursday that the social network's self-service ad-buying system allowed people to direct advertisements to almost 2,300 users interested in several explicitly antisemitic subjects, including a category labeled "History of "why Jews ruin the world".

The outlet purchased $30 worth of ads targeting the mentioned categories to test the feature.

In addition to locating anti-Semitic audiences using Facebook's own tools, reporters successfully placed ads targeting those users, confirming that it was as easy as targeting any other interest or affinity on the world's foremost social media platform.

Since we contacted Facebook, most of the anti-Semitic categories have disappeared.

"We don't allow hate speech on Facebook", product management director Rob Leathern said in a statement.

Facebook Allowed Advertisements to Target 'Jew Haters', Report Says

"Multiple times during the ad-buying process "Facebook described the ad targeting category 'Jew hater" as 'Antysemityzm, ' the Polish word for anti-Semitism". As if it weren't enough that Facebook told congressional investigators last week that it had sold about $100,000 of ads to a pro-Kremlin Russian propaganda company seeking to target US voters during the 2016 election, on Thursday it was revealed that Facebook's advertising algorithm also has something of an anti-Semitic problem.

Along with Google, Facebook dominates the fast-growing market for online advertising, in part because it lets marketers target their ads based on huge volumes of data.

Like many tech companies, Facebook has long taken a hands off approach to its advertising business. The revelations potentially bolster the findings of intelligence officials that Russian Federation was involved in influencing the 2016 presidential election. To verify these were real, they bundled a few together and bought an ad targeting them, which indeed went live. But Facebook's algorithms had suggestions to boost the audience size, including to people who like gun rights. In all likelihood, the ad categories that we spotted were automatically generated because people had listed those anti-Semitic themes on their Facebook profiles as an interest, an employer or a "field of study".

They found the category, but because there were only 2,274 people in it, it was considered too small for them to be able to buy an ad targeted at only Jew haters. After recent white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, the CEO said Facebook would remove violent threats, and the company subsequently removed deleted certain neo-Nazi and white nationalist accounts that it had previously permitted.

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