Published: Sat, September 16, 2017
Global | By Maureen Mccoy

Facebook took money from advertiser interested in "Jew haters:" report

Facebook took money from advertiser interested in

The categories were available to advertisers buying ads through the firm's self-service function, and journalists were able to use the system to target almost 2,300 users who had previously searched by such terms and phrases.

The target fields are developed through an algorithm which creates categories based on what Facebook users divulge about themselves and what they do online as well. When Facebook approved ProPublica's ads, its system automatically changed the category "Jew hater" to "Antysemityzm", the Polish word for anti-Semitism. "In this case, we've removed the associated targeting fields in question", said Rob Leathern, Facebook's product management director.

As Facebook has given advertisers greater power to micro-target their messages using a self-service platform, the company has at times failed to ensure they comply with its terms and conditions.

ProPublica notes that, in a past investigation, it managed to collect tens of thousands of ad categories and that none of them were racist or anti-Semitic in a straightforward manner.

But while some have been using these self-reporting fields to make harmless jokes, others have been using them to spew hatred - and it's been revealed that advertisers could have specifically targeted these individuals. The revelations potentially bolster the findings of intelligence officials that Russian Federation was involved in influencing the 2016 presidential election. 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.

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But other news reports, including one in Slate magazine, then discovered that hateful topics were more widespread in the ad system's targeting capabilities.

Contacted about the anti-Semitic ad categories by ProPublica, Facebook removed them, explaining that they had been generated algorithmically. Facebook offers different targeting options, like location, and age, and interests. But Facebook's algorithms had suggestions to boost the audience size, including to people who like gun rights.

After the Charlottesville riots, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg posted a heartfelt note saying, among other things, "The last few days have been hard to process".

Facebook issued a full statement on the matter, which claims "hate speech and discriminatory advertising have no place on our platform" and that "community safety is "critical to our mission".

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