Facebook Ads Target 'Jew Haters' After Brand Safety Reassurances
Just a day after widespread news of Facebook’s brand safety efforts comes this ProPublica headline on Thursday: “Facebook Enabled Advertisers to Reach ‘Jew Haters.’”
Full disclosure: I’m Jewish.
So are Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook co-founder and CEO; Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO; and doubtless many others at the social media giant.
I have little doubt that company leaders find the fact that advertisers could easily target anti-Semites on the platform repugnant. The fact is, they could. And that means Facebook’s announcement on Wednesday that it would hire “an additional 3,000 content reviewers, nearly doubling our existing team,” according to Carolyn Everson, VP Global Marketing Solutions, Facebook — needs to happen immediately.
I’m not just saying this because this time, they came for the Jews.
It’s because this isn’t even close to Facebook’s first issue with its machine-driven advertising fiascos. The platform not only allows in hate speech, but it’s gotten the basics — marketing metrics — so wrong that top American advertiser Procter and Gamble pulled back on marketing for awhile. (See “Racism on Facebook — What Year Is This?” and “Facebook Caves, Allows Ad Metrics Oversight.”)
That said, here’s what’s going on, and what Facebook said the day before it was doing to prevent this kind of thing.
How Facebook Advertisers Could Target ‘Jew Haters’
Anyone who’s ever paid for an ad on Facebook knows how simple this process is, and I’ve done it.
Here’s what just anyone could do until ProPublica’s Julia Angwin, Madeleine Varner and Ariana Tobin reported on it on Thursday:
Until this week, when we asked Facebook about it, the world’s largest social network enabled 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.’”
To test if these ad categories were real, we paid $30 to target those groups with three “promoted posts” — in which a ProPublica article or post was displayed in their news feeds. Facebook approved all three ads within 15 minutes.
After we 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, such as limiting the number of categories available or scrutinizing them before they are displayed to buyers.
What Facebook Is Doing to Ensure Brand Safety
Facebook doubled-down on reassurances to marketers that their ads wouldn’t be mixed in with fake news, hate speech or any other objectionable content. While doing so, the social media giant offered brands new ways to spend money on Facebook advertising.
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