Facebook makes changes to ads, following "Jew hater" targeting revelation

It was very mean of us to use

Facebook's self-serve ad technology could until recently be used to easily target anti-Semites, a report from Pro Publica indicated on Thursday.

ProPublica was told that as the number of people who fall into the groups was so small - 2300 users in the "Jew Hater" section - it needed to add more categories to purchase ads.

ProPublica then performed a test, paying $30 to target the users that had liked these anti-Semitic topics.

"We don't allow hate speech on Facebook", says Rob Leathern, product management director at Facebook, in an e-mailed statement.

The Google-owned company and social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter have been warned by the Government they must do more to moderate their platforms for hateful content. Users can enter whatever they went on their profile under categories like field of study, school, job title or company. Last month, Facebook told federal investigators that it sold about $100,000 in political ads during the 2016 election season to "inauthentic" accounts, likely affiliated with and operated in Russian Federation. They, too, were lumped into targeting categories.

Facebook Let Its Advertisers Target “Jew Haters”
Facebook Let Advertisers Target Nazis, 'Jew Haters' and Other Anti-Semitic Groups: Report

"We've removed the associated targeting fields in question".

While Facebook is reducing its usage of self-reported user data for ad targeting, it is not doing so entirely. Not only Facebook, but Google Inc., many ad networks and many publishers depending on their syndicated ads could see their cash cows threatened if it turns out the practice of automated "programmatic advertising" results in ad targeting that offends a large proportion of the population. Facebook said that the categories were created algorithmically, rather than by people, and the company would be looking at ways to stop its algorithms from going full Nazi in the future.

Facebook's ad business has become a hot-button topic. These two groups had a combined audience of nearly 6000 users.

Journalists even showed how Facebook suggested how to expand the target group, such as by increasing the audience to those who "like" guns rights.

Considering all these elements, Facebook might soon have to draw a clearer line between not allowing hate speech on and not discriminating groups of people regardless of their thoughts and beliefs. Initially, CEO Mark Zuckerberg dismissed critics' assertion that Facebook helped sway the vote in President Donald Trump's vote as a "pretty insane idea".

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