Allowing advertisers to target Jew haters ‘inappropriate’: Facebook
San Francisco: After reports surfaced this week that the social media giant enabled advertisers to reach “Jew haters”, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg — also of Jewish origin — has apologised, saying the company is now strengthening its ad policies.
Facebook enabled the advertisers to direct their pitches to the news feeds of almost 2,300 people who expressed interest in the topics of “Jew hater”, “How to burn Jews” or “History of why Jews ruin the world”, a ProPublica investigation revealed.
“The fact that hateful terms were even offered as options was totally inappropriate and a fail on our part. We removed them and when that was not totally effective, we disabled that targeting section in our ad systems,” Sandberg wrote in a blog post on Thursday.
Last week, Facebook temporarily disabled some of its ads tools following news reports that slurs or other offensive language could be used as targeting criteria for advertising.
“If someone self-identified as a ‘Jew-hater’ or said they studied how to burn Jews in their profile, those terms showed up as potential targeting options for advertisers,” the Facebook COO wrote.
“Seeing those words made me disgusted and disappointed – disgusted by these sentiments and disappointed that our systems allowed this. Hate has no place on Facebook and as a Jew, as a mother and as a human being, I know the damage that can come from hate,” she stressed.
To test if these ad categories were real, ProPublica paid $30 to target those groups with three “promoted posts”. Facebook approved all three ads within 15 minutes.
After ProPublica, a recipient of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for public service contacted Facebook. It removed the anti-Semitic categories — which were created by an algorithm rather than by people — and said it would explore ways to fix the problem.
“We are announcing that we are strengthening our ads targeting policies and tools,” Sandberg posted on Facebook.
Facebook is clarifying its advertising policies and tightening its enforcement processes to ensure that content which goes against its community standards cannot be used to target ads.
This includes anything that directly attacks the people based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, sex, gender or gender identity, or disabilities or diseases.
“We’re adding more human review and oversight to our automated processes,” the Facebook COO said.
Facebook is also working to create a programme to encourage the people to report potential abuses of its ads system to it directly.
“We hope these changes will prevent abuses like this going forward,” Sandberg said.