Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Facebook allowed ads to target terms like 'Jew hater' and 'How to burn jews'

The Facebook sign and logo is seen in Menlo Park, California on November 4, 2016.  / AFP / JOSH EDELSON        (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Not good Facebook.
ProPublica’s Julia Angwin, Madeline Varner, and Ariana Tobin have a disturbing article about the ease with which they were able to buy advertising space on Facebook that targeted clearly anti-semitic keywords and phrases. These “categories,” weren’t ones the authors came up with, they were provided by Facebook’s advertising system itself.
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.’”
To test if these ad categories were real, we paid $30 to target those groups with three “promoted posts” — in which a ProPublica article or post was displayed in their news feeds. Facebook approved all three ads within 15 minutes.
After being contacted about this, Facebook pulled these phrases out and blamed an algorithm that created the “categories.” This all comes after weeks of revelations, including the fact that Facebook, after denying there was any evidence for months, admitted to having sold at least $100,000 worth of advertising to Russian bot accounts, and promoting right wing propaganda. The way an algorithm like the anti-semitic one is created is clearly driven by an ability to match a venn diagram of enough groups of people to make advertising targeting attractive to any potential customer—even Hitler apparently. When the reporters found “Jew hater,” the sample size was too small, unless coupled with some other “categories,” to buy an ad.
Facebook’s automated system suggested “Second Amendment” as an additional category that would boost our audience size to 119,000 people, presumably because its system had correlated gun enthusiasts with anti-Semites.
Instead, we chose additional categories that popped up when we typed in “jew h”: “How to burn Jews,” and “History of ‘why jews ruin the world.’” Then we added a category that Facebook suggested when we typed in “Hitler”: a category called “Hitler did nothing wrong.” All were described as “fields of study.”
ProPublica is clear to point out that the more heinously named categories have very small numbers of people in comparison to the majority Facebook patrons.

No comments: