Facebook Accused of Enabling Ad Buyers to Target Hate Groups, Self-Identified "Jew Haters"

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Categories such as "Jew hater" were listed as options for ad buyers, according to ProPublica.

Facebook has come under scrutiny for allegedly enabling advertisers to aim targeted ads to the personal news feeds of over 2,000 individuals who expressed interest in anti-Semitic topics such as "Jew hater" and "History of 'why jews ruin the world.' "

ProPublica tested the claims by buying $30 worth of targeted ad space in the anti-Semitic categories. Facebook approved the ads within 15 minutes, according to the report.

When contacted by ProPublica, Facebook removed the anti-Semitic categories and said it would look for fixes to the issue, such as investigating certain categories before they are displayed to ad buyers.

"We don't allow hate speech on Facebook," Facebook project management director Rob Leathern said in a statement. "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."

Shortly after submitting their targeted ads to Facebook, ProPublica received the results of their campaign: The three ads reached 5,897 people, generated 101 clicks, and 13 "engagements," i.e. "likes," "shares" or comments on a post.

The report comes a week after Facebook drew attention for disclosing that $100,000 in were placed on its platform during the 2016 election by organizations with apparent connections to Russia. "We don’t allow inauthentic accounts on Facebook, and as a result, we have since shut down the accounts and Pages we identified that were still active," the company said in a statement at the time.