Facebook ad categories targeted 'Jew haters'

Categories allow advertisers to reach a specifically antisemitic audience


Facebook has been allowing advertisers to specifically target people who have expressed antisemitic views.

An investigation conducted by the Pro Publica news outlet found that advertising categories on the social network included “Jew hater”, “how to burn Jews” and “why Jews ruin the world”.

Facebook automatically generates categories based on its users' posts and searches, allowing advertisers to target specific markets. The Pro Publica investigation found that categories existed that quite clearly targeted antisemites, apparently making it easier to “market Nazi memorabilia, or recruit marchers for a far-right rally” – and that Facebook was profiting from this process.

The investigators also found that no "analogous advertising categories for other religions, such as ‘Muslim haters’" existed.

Pro Publica journalists paid $30 for three promoted posts targeting users in the antisemitic categories. Facebook accepted the payment and it took only 15 minutes for the ad submitted by reporters to be approved by the internet giant.

Pro Publica pointed out that the advertising categories in question were likely to have been created by algorithm, with the site noting people’s declared interests on their Facebook pages, rather than manually. However, in the wake of the white supremacist rally at Charlottesville last month, Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, wrote a post on the site saying that there was “no place for hate in our community...A lot of us have been asking where this hate comes from. As a Jew, it’s something I’ve wondered much of my life.”


The multi-billionaire also said: “We've always taken down any post that promotes or celebrates hate crimes or acts of terrorism”, a statement that may have surprised Israelis, who have had a noted lack of success in persuading Facebook to remove groups created to celebrate Palestinian terrorists and urging Palestinian youths to carry out attacks.

“We won't always be perfect”, Mr Zuckerberg also wrote. “But you have my commitment that we'll keep working to make Facebook a place where everyone can feel safe.”

Facebook removed the categories in question when it was alerted to them by Pro Publica. A spokesperson for the company said: “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.”

In reponse to a request for comment on Friday, Facebook directed the JC to a blog post that read: “Keeping our community safe is critical to our mission. And to help ensure that targeting is not used for discriminatory purposes, we are removing these self-reported targeting fields until we have the right processes in place to help prevent this issue.

"We want Facebook to be a safe place for people and businesses, and we’ll continue to do everything we can to keep hate off Facebook.”

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