The bad news just keeps coming for Facebook. A week after disclosing that a Russian "troll farm" bought $100,000 of ads during the 2016 election cycle, Facebook still can't say how much more Russian money was used to buy ads designed to possibly influence or disrupt our democracy.
Today, ProPublica published a bombshell report showing how Facebook allowed advertisers to select anti-semitic categories to target certain users. Facebook apparently has ad categories such as:
- Jew Hater
- How to burn Jews
- History of why Jews ruin the world
Well, if you are trying to target groups of Nazis, White Nationalists or just super angry white guys who want to dress in matching polos and khakis while carrying tiki torches, you may want to select these categories. And Facebook is totally there for you!
In order to actually test if these were real categories, ProPublica paid a whopping $30 to run an ad. And guess what? They were approved and went live within FIFTEEN minutes.
ProPublica reports that they contact Facebook right away and says they "removed the anti-Semitic categories — which were created by an algorithm rather than by people — and said it would explore ways to fix the problem, such as limiting the number of categories available or scrutinizing them before they are displayed to buyers."
Sure, an "algorithm" created the phrase "how to burn Jews". Yup, makes sense.
At the end of the day, Facebook is a business and their product is YOU, the user. They will take any money they can from advertisers, because that is their business - selling access to you. So if you are a Nazi, they will market that. And to the right company/group/political candidate/hostile foreign government working on behalf of a political candidate, that is what they are looking for - Nazis.
Once ProPublica contacted Facebook, most of the antisemitic categories were removed (for now). Oh, and they looked into similar categories such as "Muslim haters"....none exist. Just Jew haters.