Facebook’s Fast Move to Clean Up Its Ad-Targeting Categories

'Self-reported targeting fields' will be removed until a solution is found

Facebook ad-targeting options discovered by ProPublica were confusing, to say the least erhui1979/iStock

Facebook responded quickly to a report by ProPublica that it was able to target ads on the social network to anti-Semitic categories.

Julia Angwin, Madeleine Varner and Ariana Tobin of ProPublica reported Thursday that topics such as “Jew hater,” “How to burn Jews” and “History of ‘why Jews ruin the world’” enabled potential advertisers to target nearly 2,300 users who expressed interest in them, and ProPublica was able to purchase three promoted posts that appeared in the News Feeds of those users, sharing the screenshots below.

The social network took rapid action, announcing in a Newsroom post late Thursday that it is removing what it referred to as “self-reported targeting fields” until it comes up with a way to ensure that categories promoting hate speech and discrimination do not pass muster with its algorithms.

Facebook said the number of users in the segments discovered by ProPublica was “incredibly low,” adding, “An extremely small number of people were targeted in these campaigns.”

The social network added that advertisers that encounter any similar targeting fields that violate its community standards can report them directly in its ads interface or here.

david.cohen@adweek.com David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.