Facebook has allowed advertising to target users interested in the topics of "Jew hater" and "How to burn Jews", according to an investigation that adds to mounting criticisms of the way the company allows and profits from unethical ads.
Facebook is reviewing its ad targeting system after investigators found they could direct ads to self-described anti-Semites. ProPublica said three ads were approved within 15 minutes.
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.
These categories were created by a Facebook algorithm, rather than people, and generated based on the information users plug in when filling out their profiles on the site such as employer or "field of study". 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.
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This is not the first time Facebook's ad system has come under scrutiny.
The social network said Friday it had "immediately removed" the anti-Semitic advertising categories after ProPublica's report.
Facebook removed the categories after ProPublica contacted the social media network and said it would work to fix the problem. In response, Facebook unveiled safeguards that bar ad sales to "fake news" disseminators and downplay stories with misleading clickbait headlines. Facebook offers different targeting options, like location, and age, and interests. Although Facebook has taken proactive steps to combat hate groups on the platform, the company also admits that its AI continues to face difficulty in finding and removing hate speech.
All the same, it's not a good look when your revenue model makes it stupidly easy to spread hate speech to an audience you know will be receptive.
Facebook told TechCrunch that it is now working to prevent such offensive entries in demographic traits from appearing as addressable categories.