Facebook has pulled marketing that enabled advertisers to target their posts to 2,300 people with a penchant for anti-Semitic topics, after ProPublica exposed the issue this week. The nonprofit media source found ad categories that marketed towards a community of users interested in the topics "Jew hater," "how to burn jews," and, "history of why jews ruin the world."
To test the validity of these categories, ProPublica paid $30 to digitally pander to them with three "Promoted Posts." The ads and their desired audience were approved within 15 minutes by Facebook. After ProPublica contacted Facebook, the tech giant removed the anti-Semitic categories.
Since the racist violence this summer in Charlottesville, Va., Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg pledged to be more vigilant about taking down hateful posts, writing "there is no place for hate in our community" and "it's a disgrace that we still need to say that neo-Nazis and white supremacists are wrong -- as if this is somehow not obvious."
This is not the first time Facebook has come under fire for not removing hateful anti-Semitic posts. The Jewish community has been raising concerns for years about reporting that celebrates the Holocaust, claims that Jews rule the economy, and evokes blood libel, and receiving back notifications that such content "doesn't violate our community standards."
A petition called Facebook Community Standards ignore Anti-Semitism asks for the site to "Review your Community Standards to remove blatantly anti-Semitic and Neo-Nazi calls to 'kill all the Jews' and similar posts that incite violence"; it's garnered over 7,300 signatures. Facebook guidelines leaked in May found that its moderators were instructed to only remove the material in four of the 14 countries where it is illegal, and will only censor the hate speech if "we face the risk of getting blocked in a country or a legal risk." The United States is not one of them.
"Some 14 countries have legislation on their books prohibiting the expression of claims that the volume of death and severity of the Holocaust is overestimated. Less than half the countries with these laws actually pursue it. We block on report only in those countries that actively pursue the issue with us," the guidelines read.
Facebook has provided The Advocate the following response:
Updates to our ad targeting
Facebook equips businesses with powerful ways to reach the right people with the right message. But there are restrictions on how audience targeting can be used on Facebook. Hate speech and discriminatory advertising have no place on our platform. 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.
As people fill in their education or employer on their profile, we have found a small percentage of people who have entered offensive responses, in violation of our policies. ProPublica surfaced that these offensive education and employer fields were showing up in our ads interface as targetable audiences for campaigns. We immediately removed them. Given that the number of people in these segments was incredibly low, an extremely small number of people were targeted in these campaigns.
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.