Until This Week, Facebook Sold Ads Targeting ‘Jew Haters’

Social network allowed advertisers to target users via anti-Semitic categories, ProPublica reports

Last Updated: September 14, 2017 @ 3:04 PM

Facebook is an advertising juggernaut, and up until this week, the social network made it easy for even hucksters of Nazi memorabilia to reach an audience.

Social media advertisers were able to target 2,300 users who had shown interest in terms like “jew hater,” “History of ‘why jews ruin the world,'” and “how to burn jews,” according to a report from ProPublica. The news site paid $30 to promote posts through anti-Semitic categories, which were approved in less than 15 minutes by Facebook.

The social media giant isn’t looking to corner the market on racist advertising, however. ProPublica said the ad categories were created by a Facebook “algorithm” — a detail the company denied to TheWrap. Advertisers target users based on self-reported profile descriptions — so if a user puts “jew hater” in their profile, it becomes an option for ad buyers, according to a Facebook rep.

“We don’t allow hate speech on Facebook,” said Robert Leathern, product management director at Facebook, in a statement to TheWrap. “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. However, there are times where content is surfaced on our platform that violates our standards. In this case, we’ve removed the associated targeting fields in question. We know we have more work to do, so we’re also building new guardrails in our product and review processes to prevent other issues like this from happening in the future.”

Facebook’s ad business has been under the microscope of late. Kremlin-linked Facebook accounts purchased $100,000 worth of ads — capable of reaching millions of users — to spread false information during the 2016 election. The ads focused primarily on contentious issues like immigration, gun control and gay rights, rather than political candidates.

The company has recently moved to make its platform less hospitable to both fake news and “inflammatory” content. Facebook updated its ad monetization policy on Wednesday, aiming for its partners to “share authentic content.” Posts focused on death, social issues, and “adult content,” are subject to demonetization.

“Creators and publishers must have an authentic, established presence on Facebook — they are who they represent themselves to be, and have had a profile or Page on Facebook for at least one month,” said Nick Grudin, Facebook VP of Media Partnerships, in the statement.