Facebook said it worked to fix the problem, which is based on an algorithm, after reports in ProPublica and Slate showing that advertisers were able to specifically target anti-Semitic or prejudiced users with their ads. Since the algorithm handles ad purchases from start to finish with no human input, ProPublica was able to get the anti-Semitic ads it purchased for its investigation approved within 15 minutes.
Facebook has blamed its users for the fact that advertisers on The Social Network™ could target their ads to "Jew-haters" and other anti-Semitic terms.
The data informing the advertising categories on Facebook was generated automatically, said the ProPublica reporters, and was created from content people explicitly shared on the site as well as by what they revealed via their activity.
"We don't allow hate speech on Facebook", Facebook project management director Rob Leathern said in a statement. Studies have repeatedly suggested that fake news and dark ads on Facebook and other social media sites can swing political opinions and manipulate elections.More news: Militant blast, gun attack kill 18 police in Egypt's Sinai
Facebook told TechCrunch that it is now working to prevent such offensive entries in demographic traits from appearing as addressable categories.
"We've removed the associated targeting fields in question".
In its report, ProPublica noted that the objectionable ad categories were very small.
Facebook's ad targeting also garnered criticism past year when Probublica found that it was able to block people of different races from viewing its ads.More news: At least 50 die in twin attacks in Iraq
Facebook's targeted advertising feature allows advertisers to focus on specific groups of people that are more likely to be interested in their products or services.
The criticism of Facebook's advertising policies shows no sign of abating, particularly since recent revelations about fake news sites operating out of Russian Federation posting ads on its platform.
"There are times where content is surfaced on our platform that violates our standards", said Leathern.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg wrote at the time that "there is no place for hate in our community", and pledged to keep a closer eye on hateful posts and threats of violence on Facebook. Facebook offers different targeting options, like location, and age, and interests. In the wake of the violent protests in Charlottesville by right-wing groups that included self-described Nazis, Facebook and other tech companies vowed to strengthen their monitoring of hate speech.More news: New Apple Watch 3 Series