Facebook removes feature that let ads reach ‘Jew haters’

Facebook and rival Google dominate the fast-growing market for online advertising. (Reuters)
Updated 15 September 2017
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Facebook removes feature that let ads reach ‘Jew haters’

SAN FRANCISCO: Facebook said on Thursday it was temporarily disabling the ability of advertisers to target based on people’s self-reported education and job information after a report that those features allowed targeting based on anti-Semitic topics.
ProPublica, a non-profit news organization based in New York, reported hours earlier that Facebook’s self-service ad-buying platform had allowed marketers to target ads at people who, on their Facebook profile, had listed phrases such as “Jew hater” as their field of study or work.
Some 2,300 people had expressed interest in the topics ”Jew hater,” ”how to burn Jews” and ”History of ‘why Jews ruin the world’,” according to ProPublica’s investigation.
Facebook, the world’s largest social network, confirmed the ProPublica investigation.
Once people put those phrases on their Facebook profiles, the anti-Semitic topics automatically migrated onto the company’s advertising platform, as if they were education or job data that would be useful to marketers, Facebook said.
“We are removing these self-reported targeting fields until we have the right processes in place to help prevent this issue,” Facebook said in a statement late on Thursday.
“We want Facebook to be a safe place for people and businesses, and we’ll continue to do everything we can to keep hate off Facebook,” it said.
Facebook initially responded to the ProPublica report by removing the topics in question from its ad system. However other news reports, including from Slate magazine, then discovered that hateful topics were more widespread in the ad system’s targeting capabilities.
As Facebook has given advertisers greater power to micro-target their messages using a self-service platform, the company has at times failed to ensure they comply with its terms and conditions.
Last year, ProPublica reported that Facebook allowed advertisers to exclude users by race when running housing or other ads, despite a prohibition on such ads under the US Fair Housing Act 1969.
Facebook said last week an operation likely based in Russia spent $100,000 on thousands of US ads promoting social and political messages over a two-year period through May, fueling concerns about foreign meddling in US elections.
The company said it shut down 470 “inauthentic” accounts as part of an internal investigation into those ads.
Facebook and rival Google, owned by Alphabet, dominate the fast-growing market for online advertising, in part because they let marketers target their ads based on huge volumes of data.


Egypt targets social media with new law

Updated 17 July 2018
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Egypt targets social media with new law

  • Social media accounts and blogs with more than 5,000 followers on sites such as Twitter and Facebook will be treated as media outlets
  • The media council will supervise the law and take action against violations

CAIRO: Egypt’s parliament has passed a law giving the state powers to block social media accounts and penalize journalists held to be publishing fake news.
Under the law passed on Monday social media accounts and blogs with more than 5,000 followers on sites such as Twitter and Facebook will be treated as media outlets, which makes them subject to prosecution for publishing false news or incitement to break the law.
The Supreme Council for the Administration of the Media, headed by an official appointed by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, will supervise the law and take action against violations.
The bill prohibits the establishment of websites without obtaining a license from the Supreme Council and allows it to suspend or block existing websites, or impose fines on editors.
The law, which takes effect after it is ratified by El-Sisi, also states that journalists can only film in places that are not prohibited, but does not explain further.
Supporters of El-Sisi say the law is intended to safeguard freedom of expression and it was approved after consultations with judicial experts and journalists.
But critics say it will give legal basis to measures the government has been taking to crack down on dissent and extend its control over social media.
Sherif Mansour, Middle East and North Africa program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said the vague wording of the law allows authorities to interpret violations and control the media.
“That power of interpretation has been a constant powerful legal and executive tool that was used to justify excessive aggressive and exceptional measures to go after journalists,” he told Reuters.
Hundreds of news sites and blogs have been blocked in recent months and around a dozen people have been arrested this year and charged with publishing false news, many of them journalists or prominent government critics.