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Facebook removes feature that let ads reach 'Jew haters'

Reuters  |  SAN FRANCISCO 

By David Ingram

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Inc said on Thursday it was temporarily disabling the ability of advertisers to target based on people's self-reported education and job information after a report that those allowed targeting based on anti-Semitic topics.

ProPublica, a non-profit organization based in New York, reported hours earlier that Facebook's self-service ad-buying platform had allowed marketers to target ads at people who, on their profile, had listed phrases such as "Jew hater" as their field of study or work.

Some 2,300 people had expressed interest in the topics "Jew hater," "how to burn Jews" and "History of 'why Jews ruin the world'," according to ProPublica's investigation.

Facebook, the world's largest social network, confirmed the ProPublica investigation.

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

"We are removing these self-reported targeting fields until we have the right processes in place to help prevent this issue," said in a statement late on Thursday.

"We want to be a safe place for people and businesses, and we'll continue to do everything we can to keep hate off Facebook," it said.

initially responded to the ProPublica report by removing the topics in question from its ad system. However other reports, including from Slate magazine, then discovered that hateful topics were more widespread in the ad system's targeting capabilities.

As has given advertisers greater power to micro-target their messages using a self-service platform, the company has at times failed to ensure they comply with its terms and conditions.

Last year, ProPublica reported that allowed advertisers to exclude users by race when running housing or other ads, despite a prohibition on such ads under the U.S. Fair Housing Act 1969.

said last week an operation likely based in Russia spent $100,000 on thousands of U.S. ads promoting social and political messages over a two-year period through May, fueling concerns about foreign meddling in U.S. elections.

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

and rival Google, owned by Alphabet Inc, dominate the fast-growing market for online advertising, in part because they let marketers target their ads based on huge volumes of data.

reported $27.6 billion in 2016 revenue, the vast majority from

Ad campaigns that used the anti-Semitic categories on were not widespread, the company said.

"Given that the number of people in these segments was incredibly low, an extremely small number of people were targeted in these campaigns," said.

One change said it was considering was adding more thorough reviews of targeting categories before they show up in the self-service platform.

(Reporting by David Ingram; Editing by Paul Tait)

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, September 15 2017. 12:03 IST