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Sandro Rosell
FC Barcelona President
Saturday, October 21, 2017

White-supremacist groups have been successfully recruiting “Jew haters” and members of the “Nazi Party” through ads on Facebook. As per the NY Post, Facebook users who “liked” hateful subjects such as “How to burn Jews” or “Why Jews ruin the world” would be targeted by ads, to join the cause. “Want to market Nazi memorabilia, or recruit marchers for a far right rally? Facebook’s self-service ad-buying platform had the right audience for you,’’ stated an article by ProPublica, the nonprofit website which investigated the matter.

ProPublica ran a test run to see how the ads would work. It paid $30 for promoted posts in three anti-Semitic group categories including “Jew haters”, “Nazi Party” and “German Schutzstaffel”.  Facebook approved the ads within 15 minutes, rapidly selecting audience categories from its ad-buying platform. The social media giant boasted that the ads would reach 5,897 people and generate 101 clicks, according to the article published on Thursday.

Earlier this week, only after ProPublica inquired about them, Facebook removed the anti-Semitic ad categories. In their defense, the categories were created with an algorithm-like system, not by human employees. “There are times where content is surfaced on our platform that violates our standards,” said Rob Leathern, Facebook product management director. “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, ” he said, promising to improve monitoring.

Facebook’s policy has long banned race and religion-based attacks. “Our community standards strictly prohibit attacking people based on their protected characteristics, including religion, and we prohibit advertisers from discriminating against people based on religion and other attributes,’’ states a passage in their policies.

Facebook is not alone in its predicament. Many other tech companies, including Google, have been taking a hands-off approach to their advertising business, automatically generating ad categories based on users’ online activity.

By Helen Zaboulani