Face­book sus­pends ad plat­form fields af­ter racism scan­dal

Irish Independent - - BUSINESS - Adrian Weck­ler

FACE­BOOK has sus­pended part of its ad­ver­tis­ing sys­tem af­ter it ad­mit­ted that its al­go­rithms al­low mar­keters to cre­ate ad cam­paigns based on racist and anti-Semitic top­ics.

The move comes af­ter an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the US-based non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion ProPublica re­vealed that busi­nesses were able to tar­get ads at peo­ple based on be­ing “Jew haters”.

Other mon­eti­s­able top­ics in­cluded “how to burn Jews” and “his­tory of ‘why Jews ruin the world.’”

ProPublica then paid $30 (€25.12) to tar­get those groups with ‘pro­moted posts’, where a ProPublica ar­ti­cle or post was dis­played in the news feeds of those dis­play­ing anti-Semitic in­ter­ests. Ac­cord­ing to ProPublica, Face­book ap­proved the ads.

Once peo­ple put those phrases on their Face­book pro­files, the anti-Semitic top­ics au­to­mat­i­cally mi­grated onto the com­pany’s ad­ver­tis­ing plat­form, as if they were ed­u­ca­tion or job data that would be use­ful to mar­keters, Face­book said.

“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,” said Face­book in a state­ment.

“ProPublica sur­faced that these of­fen­sive ed­u­ca­tion and em­ployer fields were show­ing up in our ads in­ter­face as targ- etable 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.

“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.”

Face­book said last week an op­er­a­tion based in Rus­sia spent $100,000 (€84,000) on thou­sands of US ads pro­mot­ing so­cial and po­lit­i­cal mes­sages over a two-year pe­riod through May, fu­elling con­cerns about for­eign med­dling in US elec­tions.

The com­pany said it shut down 470 “in­au­then­tic” ac­counts as part of an in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into those ads.

Face­book ‘do­ing ev­ery­thing’ to keep hate off its plat­form

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