In an investigation by ProPublica published yesterday, Facebook has been discovered to allow its advertisers to target users with expressed interest in violent hate speech. Users with interests like “burning jews” are easy to find, and as long as the total number of users in the targeted groups is above a certain threshold, Facebook green-lights the ads almost instantly.
From the article:
Until this week, when we asked Facebook about it, the world’s largest social network enabled advertisers to direct their pitches to the news feeds of almost 2,300 people who expressed interest in the topics of “Jew hater,” “How to burn jews,” or, “History of ‘why jews ruin the world.’”
As ProPublica notes, Facebook shut down these topics, blocking off advertisers from using them, but Slate picked up where they left off and tried their hand at making similar ads. They broadened their parameters, and found hate speech in fields like “Education” and “Employer.” When they included topics like “killing hajis,” “killing Muslimic radicals” or the Canadian Nazi Party with a German far-right political party, Facebook green-lit their ad in less than a minute.
Social media networks have long had a problem dealing with racism and hate speech on their sites. Just last year, ProPublica published a similar exposé showing how Facebook had allowed advertisers to exclude targeted users by race.
Facebook continues to try to refine its advertising format to stop advertisers from doing stuff like this, but since it started with an “anything goes” style that initially allowed racists a lot of leeway to advertise fake news and hate speech, it has a lot of catching up to do.