back to article Facebook let advertisers target 'Jew-haters'

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 nasty ad targeting was uncovered by ProPublica, a “nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism with moral force.” The publication's journos experimented with …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How about some balance?

    Did they search for all types of racists?

    Muslim Haters.

    Black Haters.

    Asian Haters.

    or even white people haters.

    At then end of the day haters are haters but it would be nice if people didn't selectively pick one group to push their own agenda.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How about some balance?

      Wow 3 downvotes in such a small amount of time, I wonder how many I'll get in total?

      Lets put it into perspective.

      Facebook Active Users: 2 Billion

      Number if people in this study: 2,300

      % people that are shown as Anti-Semitic: 0.00000115%

      Realistically anyone who did this test would look at those numbers and say "you know what, that's not really indicative so lets try other types of racist so we can see if it's a big problem" unless of course it's not really trying to get to the problem of racism and targeted ads but yeah they've covered one group but they aren't really that arsed about every one else. Personally I would have looked at all groups so I could report it to facebook, but then that's me because I'm not biased to anyone.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How about some balance?

        You're getting the downvotes because you completely missed the point and made yourself look like an idiot. Allow me to explain using the shortest possible words, to help you out.

        This is not specifically about anti-semitism, and therefore your ranting about "balance" is completely misplaced. The ad categories in question were created by an algorithm, based on people's searches. Therefore the problem here is that Facebook's algorithms will generate racist or discriminatory ad categories if people search for those topics. The researchers happened to use anti-semitic criteria to highlight the problem, but there is every reason to believe that the same thing would occur with other types of racist or discriminatory searches.

        Likewise the number of people reached in this one particular case does not alone signify the importance of the problem, since there could easily be many other problem categories. ISIS or other extremists could equally well be using similar auto-generated ad categories to target people prone to radicalisation. You want to say that's OK because it's only a few thousand people?

      2. englishr
        Headmaster

        Re: How about some balance?

        > Facebook Active Users: 2 Billion

        > Number if people in this study: 2,300

        > % people that are shown as Anti-Semitic: 0.00000115%

        Your arithmetic is off by two orders of magnitude.

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: How about some balance?

      Perfectly valid point.

      While anti-Semitism gets all the outrage, racism is by no means limited to that and neither is the exploitation of Facebook for this particular purpose.

      I wonder how much pre-election and pre-referendum advertisements used Polish haters, Bulgarian haters, Romanian haters, etc as their target audience. I bet quite a few (cheaper to do that than to use Cambridge Analytica too).

      I do not wonder did Facebook make money or not on that though. It did. Racism sells (at least as far as politics are concerned). Same as sex in normal retail ads.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Cambridge Analytica

        Have an upvote for mentioning them and Facebook in the same post.

        The BBC Documentary about how Trump got elected shows some small insight into how that bunch 'was wot won it for trump' (to use the sort of Sun headling we have seen in the past).

        (They probably would have done the same for Hillary as long as they got paid enough.)

        Using the data/trends from posts on FB, CA developed Ads that were sent to possible trump voters that reinforced their POV and dressed up a message from the dear leader to be that he had their back.

        Scary social engineering and it will only get worse.

        Get off FB and all other forms of social media now is my advice. YOU ARE THEIR TARGET even if you don't think you are.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Cambridge Analytica

          Interesting article from Spiegel:

          http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/trolls-in-germany-right-wing-extremists-stir-internet-hate-a-1166778.html

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Cambridge Analytica

            Interesting article from Spiegel

            They're a bit late, aren't they? That said, as a relatively normal person (or some variance thereof, after all, I work in IT) I have trouble getting my head around these people and how it is possible that anyone even takes them seriously. The amount of unhingedness that that must take is just alien to me (which, for Americans, would probably be an unintentional pun in itself, sorry).

            But, f*ck it, it's Friday. I *can* get my head around imbibing some well deserved Guinness.

        2. Ian Michael Gumby
          Boffin

          @AC ... Re: Cambridge Analytica

          Chum, hate to break it to you... Trump won because he was the lesser of two evils.

          You think Hillary would have been better, her book is proof that she's a nutter and we dodged a bullet. While I didn't vote for Trump, I will say that if he was given a chance, he'd be doing a better job. The issue is that he's an outsider and wants to drain the swamp. So those who made their money in DC and feed from the swamp, don't want him around.

          He gets blasted by the Media even when he's doing the right thing and after the fact, it comes out that he did the right thing yet no mea culpa or correction from the MSM. I mean, I kid you not... 90% of MSM is negative. Fox News which ran stories is closer to 55-45 where 55% was negative. (And they're being labeled 'pro Trump')

          Trump won because of the fact he went to the rust belt and won the states that Obama won. Clinton avoided them and instead went to fund raisers in California.

          The DNC's treatment of Bernie Sanders had more of an impact on voters than any ads that could have run on Facebook. Her illegal activities which are still being investigated today... are more of a reason than any 'pro Trump' ad on FB.

          As to using 'Big Data' for political fundraising... The Republicans are far behind what Obama did in 2012 out of Chicago. Something Clinton didn't come close to doing either.

          BTW, Clinton's crew ignored the Big Data analytics that was done... ;-)

          1. Geriant
            Pint

            Re: @AC ... Cambridge Analytica

            "Chum, hate to break it to you... Trump won because he was the lesser of two evils."

            Not so sure about the rest of your post, but have a beer for that line. It says everything that matters.

      2. jaduncan

        Re: How about some balance?

        I doubt all that much; let's face it, those people were locked in Leave voters.

        1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          Re: How about some balance?

          I doubt all that much; let's face it, those people were locked in Leave voters.

          You are missing a couple of points:

          1. Associating leave with the pet hate and keeping it that way.

          2. Voter mobilization for the election day.

          Especially the latter. While campaigns like this do not do a lot as far as changing voter orientation, they are essential to ensure that all that can vote for you do so. That is exactly what happened in the USA. And UK too. It will also continue happening now as everyone has wised up to this particular use of f***book and social media.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: How about some balance?

            "2. Voter mobilization for the election day.

            Especially the latter."

            Yep, I saw people in the voting queue with pens to stop the remain side rubbing out their vote, bless.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: How about some balance?

          You should research the caste system in that country of over a billion humans, then you'll better understand racism. Trump and his sycophants are relatively pussy cats in comparison, as nasty as some of them are.

      3. Ian Michael Gumby
        Boffin

        @Voland's right hand Re: How about some balance?

        Wow.

        Even your response could be viewed as being antisemitic. Free clue. Judaism is both a race and a religion. Prior to the second world war, the largest Jewish community in Europe was in Poland with communities over 400 years old before the Holocaust.

        The issue though is that its possible to search for specific key words or phrases which can give clues to people belonging to hate groups. "88" for example. And then the BDS movement which is not only misguided but also produces antisemitic rhetoric and hate speech.

        The underlying issue is that Facebook does have the ability to control hate speech as well as other user content, yet here is an area where they are turning a 'blind eye'. This would be akin to the 'pink sheet' contracts that were afforded spammers by the ISPs and Telcos.

        Antisemitism isn't getting all of the outrage.

        There's more, but I doubt you'd grok it.

    3. jake Silver badge

      Re: How about some balance?

      "Muslim" is not a race.

      What do you mean by "white people"?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How about some balance?

        What do you mean by "white people"?

        Sorry, "White Folk"

        Better?

        Sure, Muslim isn't a race but the majority of Muslims are not Caucasians.

        We could argue the semantics of what defines a race, colour or religion all day long. Maybe it would have been better if I had said Black/White/Brown/Pink/Yellow

        with green spots and a teddy bear best friend though I think I got my point across anyway.

        We're all the fucking same underneath anyway it's just some people like to define themselves as being part of a group that isn't the same as another group and then attack that group because they are different which in my opinion is just plain fucking stupid.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: How about some balance?

          No, not better. What do you mean by "White Folk"?

          And what the fuck does "Muslim isn't a race but the majority of Muslims are not Caucasians." mean in this context?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: How about some balance?

            No, not better. What do you mean by "White Folk"?

            I'm going to describe something now, it's a word but you have to work it out for yourself. I'll give you a little clue, it begins with the letter "S"

            "the use of irony to mock or convey contempt."

            With regards to "Muslims" does it really matter? There are people that hate Muslims, in fact there is a word for it "Islamophobia"

            As I said you can argue the semantics of all this till the cows come home.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: How about some balance?

              To be fair, Islam has rather a lot to be fearful of as a religious ideology. There is nothing irrational about such fear.

        2. Stu Mac

          Re: How about some balance?

          "Sure, Muslim isn't a race but the majority of Muslims are not Caucasians."

          Keep digging. I think you will find that many are just that. Indian sub-continent and Middle East being what they are.

          Rule of thumb:

          NEVER make excuses for the evil of religious delusion.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How about some balance?

        ""Muslim" is not a race." You are right and the AC above didn't say it was.

        On the other hand, put in the place of the hater, they may well consider the religion to be a race and not understand the difference, after all they are likely to be...

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How about some balance?

      "or even white people haters".

      Even? What like they don't exist?

      Racism isn't just confined to Caucasians.

      In fact it's more prevalent in the other "races" you list but lets not let political correctness get in the way.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How about some balance?

        "Even? What like they don't exist?

        There you go, hit the nail on the head, of course they exist but you don't hear about them do you? That is why I used the term "even" not because I'm being politically correct but to highlight the point you have made.

        That was also my point about this so called "study", very narrow, not well defined and pushing an agenda otherwise it would have been inclusive of all other types of racism. Unless they ran out of money after spending $30 or maybe they just weren't curious about other types of racism or didn't care, take your pick.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How about some balance?

      Why? Wrong sort of racism for you? Personally, I think racism is bad irrespective of who's targetted. I certainly wouldn't complain that a certain group of racists were being targetted. Maybe they'll learn what it's like to be on the other end of discrimination?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How about some balance?

        "I certainly wouldn't complain that a certain group of racists were being targetted."

        I'm sorry but what planet do you actually live on because it sure as hell isn't this one. That certain group of racists are (and rightly so) attacked constantly and vigorously by the press, you can't go more than week without them being mentioned in some way or another.

        I'm talking about balance, you can't attack one group of racists and casually ignore the rest. I say attack them all and show them all for the pricks they are but you have to have balance otherwise these racists will use that as an excuse.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How about some balance?

      Classic "whataboutism". You agree with hating Jews and try to disguise it by asking "Ah, yeah, but what about other forms of hate. Didn't Think So!". So transparent. Sad!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How about some balance?

        "You agree with hating Jews and try to disguise it by asking "Ah, yeah, but what about other forms of hate."

        At what point did I agree with hating Jews?

        I don't hate anyone thanks, I just prefer to see balance. These so called journalists took the time out to remove anti-Semitic crap from Facebook but didn't think to do the same for other forms of racism, you tell me how that can be right or fair? Is non-Jewish racism somehow exempt or is non-Jewish racism beneath them? What makes one form of racism more important than another? In my mind it's all bad regardless of who it is directed at.

        If anyone is transparent it's you, you took a valid point and tried to turn it around into a hatred of Jews when I said nothing of the sort but don't worry I fully expected it, you don't have a valid argument so you fall back on the you're a racist bullshit. Well done.

    7. Stu Mac

      Re: How about some balance?

      Black Asian and Jew all describe racial/ethnic groups.

      Islam is a violent religious/political cult trapping and abusing millions of people. There is NO equivalence and no need to tolerate. Much like Communist or Neo-Nazi. Hate is not always a bad thing.

    8. Florida1920

      Re: How about some balance?

      I hate what-about-ers. Hate Hate Hate.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How about some balance?

        What are the odds?

        https://www.buzzfeed.com/alexkantrowitz/google-allowed-advertisers-to-target-jewish-parasite-black?utm_term=.ccm76NgrJ#.ysyP6DOyQ

        Same day, different study, same outcome.

    9. Diogenes

      Re: How about some balance?

      Interesting seeing most coomentards seem to assume the anti semites are white folk. Given transcripts/recording surfacing t the moment, I wonder how many were from followers of another ME based religion

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Re: How about some balance?

        But shirley only white folks are racist. Them with a very deep suntan are exempt because they are a "minority".

        NB There are 1.9~2.0 billion whitish people around the world. Considerably fewer if you apply the US One drop rule.

  2. ukgnome

    yes, this is what target advertising looks like.

    They can also go after kitten haters, but I don't think many are present on facebook if my feed is anything to go by.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What about facebook haters?

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge
        Devil

        What about facebook haters?

        We're all here at El Reg.....

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The looming power of Digital Dictators

    Facebook Hated-for-sale / Election-Rigging are big headlines right now. But it seems to me, we're At-War-With-Tech on 3 other fronts:

    #1. Constant slurping by Facebook / Google / Uber / Snap / LinkedIn, on 3rd party sites especially. Most users don't use Ad-blockers, especially on mobile. This is leading to the juiciest slurp of all... And now Google is matching online search-n-slurp to real-world credit-card purchases & transactions. How long till Facebook joins in? We're all Jews to Zuk & Co!

    #2. Lack of tech choice... The average family has no choice but to buy a Windows-10-home Laptop / PC, as there just isn't an alternative. Dell offers Linux in some markets, but the rest of the big names offer no affordable alternative choices at all. That means forced slurp is inevitable for most busy / modest families... That will inevitably lead to M$ becoming a big-player in Ads + Slurp rivalling Google & Facebook. Why? Only 30% of consumers use Win10's Privacy Controls! Plus, Mobile and Android slurp is at epidemic proportions, and that's without any regard to how much malware makes it onto Google-Play! Then we have the onslaught of Smart-everything from Smart-TV to IoT phoning home.. It all means, there's no escape now!

    #3. Tech Automation and job redundancy aka 'AI killing jobs' by the dumb MSM, that can't tell the difference between self-aware Neural-Nets and Pattern-Matching-NN's. For sure, Bots scanning medical scans faster than doctors and self-drive cars & trucks are real. But that's all for now at least... The irony is, the more time spent on Facebook, the more Ads that will pay for more research into AI, which will leave even more of out of work in the future!

    1. Anonymous Blowhard
      Pint

      Re: The looming power of Digital Dictators

      @AC

      Looks like they'll be targeting you with tinfoil hat advertisements...

      Have a beer; it doesn't track how you drink it (you can slurp it, if you want), there's a large choice of brands and types and AI systems aren't better at drinking it than humans (until someone invents the Bending Unit)

      1. Barry Rueger

        Re: The looming power of Digital Dictators

        While we're at it, can we please retire "slurp," a phrase that may have been cute the first time, but now is only slightly less grating than "Windoze."

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Trollface

    I'm curious...

    Did those people get adverts for zyklon-b ?

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    “How to burn jews”

    What a strange search term, Who thought that one up?

    Is there an incorrect way? Do they burn differently to Christians and Muslims? is there a facebook page with instructions?

    Personally I'm never going to find out how anyone burns or search for such things.

    1. DropBear

      Re: “How to burn jews”

      There also seems to be a logic gap between how one searching for stuff like that has anything to do with what one fills into "employer" or whatever fields...

      1. Tom 38 Silver badge

        Re: “How to burn jews”

        Not really, Facebook provides tools for you to target people based upon what they have filled in on their profile. So you can target people who have "Software Developer" as their job title, or work at "HSBC". TFA is saying that they found people who had put things like "Jew burning" as their profession, apparently because Facebook was not monitoring those fields for unacceptable content, which allowed them to be targeted.

        1. DropBear

          Re: “How to burn jews”

          I do understand Facebook would let you target your ads based on what people would enter into those fields, and that some folks apparently entered strange stuff there. What wasn't clear at all is that the content of those fields was the only source for the targeting, even though the quoted phrases sounded like something you enter into a search query, not a field on a form. Reading "how to xxxxxxx" leads me to think of Google, not of CVs, but it seems some people use this sort of thing in a descriptive manner instead of a search query. My mistake then. I do tend to be surprisingly obtuse when facing stuff that makes zero sense.

  6. jake Silver badge

    Face it, Facebook allows advertisers to target ...

    ... anything the advertisers want to target, as long as Facebook makes a buck and receives no bad publicity.

    Quis custodiet ipsos faciem liber? (Pardon the very rusty Latin.)

  7. David Roberts
    Facepalm

    I had problems with Google

    When searching for Jew sons.

    (Othe building supplies companies are available.)

    As others have said the investigation should have been for all major religious groupings.

    <rant>

    Israeli is not a race. It reflects citizenship.

    As far as I know you can be Israeli and, for example, Christian (atheist, agnostic, Muslim) so being anti Israeli is not racist, nor is it "religionist" but is a reaction to a particular electorate within a nation state.

    It certainly is not anti-semitic.

    Many semites are anti Israel.

    </rant>

    Sorry, started out as a lame joke then pressed the usual buttons.

    1. Pompous Git Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: I had problems with Google

      "When searching for Jew sons."

      Little Jewson and Kinky Friedman - They Aint Makin' Jews Like Jesus Anymore

      Hope that helps...

      1. Barry Rueger

        Re: I had problems with Google

        This world needs a little more Kinky! No idea why anyone would down vote that.

  8. SVV

    "Facebook's moral compass is often strangely-aligned"

    Faebook has a moral compass?

    And no, having a complex about boob pics when judged against so much of the shit they do tolerate doesn't work as a counterargument here.

    1. Pen-y-gors

      Re: "Facebook's moral compass is often strangely-aligned"

      Zuckerberg's compass always points to moNey

      I'm getting very worried about suggestions he's going to run for President. And we think Drumpf is dangerous!

  9. phuzz Silver badge
    Joke

    To be fair, elReg has it's own targeted advertising, except the categories are more like:

    "java hater"

    "how to burn Windows boxen"

    "History of 'why flash ruins the world'"

  10. Gruezi

    Move along. There is no story here.

    I fail to see how this is even a story?

    Before I explain, let me say first. All hate, of race, religion, colour or creed is wrong wrong wrong!

    But this story isn't really about this.

    Facebook allows you to put any free text in your job title. Some idiots put Jew Hater in there. Okay, so maybe we can blame facebook for not banning people from entering that term. But its a strange arms race to police free text fields. We may soon get outraged stories about a Speech Therapist who was banned form facebook because the job title contained the word "rapist".

    The second thing that happened was that you can create an ad that targets people with a certain job title. So they put in the word Jew Hater as a job title and got some hits. Okay. The story is maybe that some idiotic haters publish their hate on facebook under the entry Job Title.

    Or is the story that facebook should have had better mechanisms in place to filter out people trying to target ads that contain blacklisted words? Yes they probably should. And when they find out about it they try to fix it.

    But turning this into a racism story is absurd. How's about we do an outraged article about facebook allowing us to advertise DIY brewing kits to people who have identified themselves as "recovering alcoholics", because I bet that would be possible too.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Move along. There is no story here.

      Good call, Gruezi.

      Facebook is a business, it sells targeted advertising. How somebody chooses to identify themselves is up to them, and if advertisers choose to target that niche, then let them.

      The wild running round by much of the press, and wider moral panic over racism is just posturing stupidity. Some people hold those opinions, often regardless of what others may think. If they've told Facebook that, and its a hook to flog them stuff, why not? I don't see that endorses those opinions, any more than targeting any particular part of the political spectrum would (even indirectly, such as using socio-economic indicators that often correlate with voting patterns).

  11. davenewman

    It was just an example

    They could have picked any group that people hate. But having found one that targeted thousands of people they used that as an example, set up a small targeted Facebook post and wrote about it.

    A thorough research project would have compared the number of people who self-identify as haters of someone. But to prove there is a problem with Facebook, you just need one example.

    So the only reason to object to the choice of example is when the objector also hates that group.

    As for search terms in Facebook employer fields, take a look at the number of people who type search queries in to the Google Android App Facebook page. There is even a video singing about those search terms.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It was just an example

      They could have picked any group that people hate

      Maybe. But I suspect the influence of a certain terrorist state. You know, the one that was busy murdering nurses in 1948 to cement its theft of another people's country, and has disregarded most international law ever since.

  12. goldcd

    WTF - "Facebook lets advertisers target people based on how they identify"

    And some facebook users, identify themselves with these terms.

    Bemused as to how this is facebook's fault.

  13. silver darling

    Already used for political ends, no?

    Didnt Brexit and US presidential elections show how FB was used to target voters' racism -

    "Facebook was the key to the entire campaign, Wigmore (Andy Wigmore, Leave.EU’s communications director) explained. A Facebook ‘like’, he said, was their most “potent weapon”. “Because using artificial intelligence, as we did, tells you all sorts of things about that individual and how to convince them with what sort of advert. And you knew there would also be other people in their network who liked what they liked, so you could spread. And then you follow them. The computer never stops learning and it never stops monitoring.”"

    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/feb/26/robert-mercer-breitbart-war-on-media-steve-bannon-donald-trump-nigel-farage

    https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/07/the-great-british-brexit-robbery-hijacked-democracy

    Merely targeting keywords in user profiles is simple, the articles above suggest more sophisticated targeting. Facebook are themselves busy spinning their 'AI' capabilities to all kinds of clients.

  14. John Gamble
    Facepalm

    To See Oursels as Ithers See Us

    Not surprised that the usual conspiracy theorists here are defending a tool to aid crackpots (by definition, a racist is a crackpot) find other like-minded folk with murderous tendencies (although interestingly the guy who has actually used neo-nazi catchphrases hasn't posted).

    But I'm shocked, shocked at the similarities of their comments to The Onion's post today.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Might it've been 'Dew Haters'?

    I don't know about you, but I get flipping livid when my trouser bottoms get soaked when walking though long grass early in the morning.

  16. Stevie

    Bah!

    All that development money and not a spare dollar for a RegEx?

    ^S[Aa][Dd]\.$

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