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Facebook listed 'Jew-hater' as category for advertisers

16 September 2017

ProPublica reported Thursday that Facebook's platform allowed advertisers to target users who had entered terms such as "jew hater" in the education or employment fields of their personal profiles.

Not very thumbs up: Anti-Semitic ad targeting found possible on Facebook. An algorithm automatically generates these categories based on words and phrases found in profiles, such as "gym lover", but a ProPublica report found that the system was also allowing companies to target their ads toward anti-Semites.

While those ads didn't prop up any specific candidate, they focused on polarizing social issues, including gay rights, immigration and race, Facebook's chief security officer said in a post.

The firm also said no one appeared to have used the categories before they were reported.

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The news of these segments comes in the midst of Facebook's other ad controversy, which saw the company receive over US$100 000 from Russian ads during the 2016 USA election. Last year, it uncovered that it could target ads in a way that discriminated certain ethnic groups, which led to policy reviews and calls for action even by Congress. For example, the "Jew hater" category contained 2,300 people, out of Facebook's 2 billion monthly users.

Facebook removed the categories after ProPublica contacted the social media network and said it would work to fix the problem.

In the wake of this revelation, Facebook quickly responded by removing "self-reported targeting fields" until it can find a way to prevent the issue arising again in the future. In response, Facebook unveiled safeguards that bar ad sales to "fake news" disseminators and downplay stories with misleading clickbait headlines. Using the ad targeting tools, advertisers on Facebook can reportedly target people who hate jews, like gang-rape, want to kill hajis (Muslims), want to burn Jews, follow Nazi parties, fantasize about "pillage the women, rape the village", kill Muslims radicals and other hate topics. Facebook spokesman Joe Osborne told ProPublica, "We have looked at the use of these audiences and campaigns and it's not common or widespread".

A 2013 post from the company specifically names Jewish people as a group frequently targeted by threats and hate speech on the platform. Both the social network and the advertising platform will have to deal with this more head-on going forward.

Facebook listed 'Jew-hater' as category for advertisers