Facebook rushes ad update after disturbing ‘Jew haters’ report

Facebook is overhauling its advertising policies shortly after ProPublica revealed how its algorithms could be used to serve ads to “Jew haters.”

The social giant cited the ProPublica report on Thursday in a blog post that stated it would remove certain self-reporting targeting fields until it found a better way to deal with the issue. Facebook is also enabling advertisers to report any fields they think breach Facebook’s policies.

“Our community standards strictly prohibit attacking people based on their protected characteristics, including religion, and we prohibit advertisers from discriminating against people based on religion and other attributes,” Facebook wrote in its post.

In Thursday’s report, ProPublica said advertisers could make pitches to 2,300 people who were interested in topics like “Jew hater,” “How to burn jews,” or “History of ‘why jews ruin the world.’” The publication tested the ad service, adding enough anti-Semitic categories until Facebook allowed it to post an ad. Facebook even sent a report with statistics on the number of users reached a few days later.

The company claims the categories were placed in the education category by a small group of people, “Given that the number of people in these segments was incredibly low, an extremely small number of people were targeted in these campaigns.”

Facebook says it immediately removed the categories. ProPublica confirmed most of the anti-Semitic categories it tested have been removed.

The controversy will now move on to Google, which BuzzFeed News revealed on Friday allows advertisers to target racist keywords, including “Jewish parasite” and “Black people ruin everything.”

Update 4:35pm CT, Sept. 15: Following up on ProPublica’s report, the Daily Beast successfully launched an ad campaign on Twitter that targeted users who would allegedly respond to disparaging terms. Twitter told the media outlet that 26.3 million would respond to the term “wetback” and the term “Nazi” would appeal to 18.6 million users.

We’ve reached out to Twitter and will update this article if we hear back.

Update 6:56pm CT, Sept. 15: Twitter says it keeps a running blacklist of words to prevent this term-targeting loophole, and is looking into how this got past the filters.

“The terms cited in this story have been blacklisted for several years and we are looking into why the campaign cited in this story were able to run for a very short period of time. Twitter actively prohibits and prevents any offensive ads from appearing on our platform, and we are committed to understanding 1) why this happened, and 2) how to keep it from happening again,” a Twitter spokesperson told the Daily Dot.

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