Facebook has announced it has tightened criteria for its ad targeting technology, after a report found it could be used to easily target anti-Semites.
Until last week, Facebook allowed advertisers to target the news feeds of almost 2,300 people who showed interest in the topics of “Jew hater,” “How to burn jews,” or, “History of ‘why jews ruin the world’”, according to ProPublica.
To find out if these ad categories were the real deal, ProPublica forked out $30 to target those groups with three “promoted posts” using its articles.
ProPublica claims Facebook signed off on all three ads within 15 minutes, and proceeded to get in touch with the social media giant to issue a ‘please explain’.
The social media giant responded by removing the anti-Semitic categories after being notified by ProPublica, and in a post yesterday on her page, Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg (a Jew herself) announced further measures.
“First, we’re clarifying our advertising policies and tightening our enforcement processes to ensure that content that goes against our community standards cannot be used to target ads,” she wrote.
“This includes anything that directly attacks people based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, sex, gender or gender identity, or disabilities or diseases.
“Such targeting has always been in violation of our policies and we are taking more steps to enforce that now.”
Facebook is also adding more human review and oversight to its automated processes.
“After manually reviewing existing targeting options, we are reinstating the roughly 5,000 most commonly used targeting terms – such as ‘nurse,’ ‘teacher’ or ‘dentistry’,” Sandberg wrote.
“We have made sure these meet our Community Standards. From now on we will have more manual review of new ad targeting options to help prevent offensive terms from appearing.
“And third, we are working to create a program to encourage people on Facebook to report potential abuses of our ads system to us directly. We have had success with such programs for our technical systems, and we believe we can do something similar with ads.”
Sandberg said she felt “disgusted” by the sentiments of the anti-Semitic words, and “disappointed” that Facebook allowed it in the first place.
“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 wrote.
“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.”