Facebook allowed users to buy ad space targeting people who had expressed interest in anti-Semitic topics like “Jew hater” and “How to burn jews,” the news organization ProPublica reported Thursday.
ProPublica used Facebook to buy $30 worth of ads targeting those groups. Those ads were approved within 15 minutes, the report claimed.
Facebook allows advertisers to target users who express interest in tens of thousands of categories. The “Jew hater” category only had 2,274 people associated with it (not enough to buy an ad), so Facebook system’s reportedly recommended adding “Second Amendment” as an additional category—“presumably because its system had correlated gun enthusiasts with anti-Semites,” the report explained.
The ads eventually reached 5,897 people, generating 101 clicks and 13 “engagements” (like a “like” or a comment).
After the reporters contacted Facebook, most of the questionable categories were deleted.
“There are times where content is surfaced on our platform that violates our standards,” Facebook product management director Rob Leathern told ProPublica. “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.”