Facebook will revamp its advertising tools after it was disclosed that advertisers could purchase targeted ads for groups including, “jew haters," among other anti-Semitic ad categories.

In a post, Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg apologized for the options’ availability for Facebook ad buyers, describing them as “totally inappropriate.” Last week, ProPublica reported that Facebook’s automated online ad buying tool was automated providing generated categories that included sections like “how to burn jews” and “hitler did nothing wrong.”

According to Sandberg, Facebook will upgrade its enforcement abilities to ensure that similar topics cannot be used for ad targeting. In addition, Facebook will add more human review alongside its automated advertising tools and launch a customer support program that will allow ad buyers to directly report potential abuses directly to the company.

Sandberg further detailed how Facebook has used and plans to improve its advertising tools.

Targeted advertising is how Facebook has helped millions of business grow, find customers, and hire people. Our systems match organizations with potential customers who may be interested in their products or services. The systems have been particularly powerful for small businesses, who can use tools that previously were only available to advertisers with large budgets or sophisticated marketing teams. A local restaurant can shoot video of their food prep with just a phone and have an ad up and running within minutes and pay only the amount needed to show it to real potential customers.

Most of our targeting is based on categories we provide. In order to allow businesses – especially small ones – to find customers who might be interested in their specific products or services, we offered them the ability to target profile field categories like education and employer. People wrote these deeply offensive terms into the education and employer write-in fields and because these terms were used so infrequently, we did not discover this until ProPublica brought it to our attention. We never intended or anticipated this functionality being used this way – and that is on us. And we did not find it ourselves – and that is also on us.

In a statement, Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said the organization appreciates Facebook’s quick response to improve its ad buying tools.

"We spoke to Facebook last week to understand what happened and asked for detailed steps they'd take to prevent this sort of hateful ad-targeting,” Greenblatt said. “We are glad that they are taking immediate, meaningful action, and ADL will continue to hold tech companies accountable for following through on these actions.”

For Facebook, the revamp is the latest instance of the social media network having to revamp its tools after running into unexpected problems. In the run-up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Facebook was tied to the rise of “fake news” and recently disclosed that accounts based in Russia had bought more than $100,000 in political ads during the same period. Facebook also has promised to revamp its live video streaming amid users streaming violent or illegal acts to viewers.


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