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Sheryl Sandberg
Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg during a discussion called The Now and Future of Mobile at the Fortune Global Forum Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Sheryl Sandberg called anti-Semitic ad-targeting on Facebook ‘a fail’


Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg on Wednesday announced that the social media company is changing its ad targeting policies after reports buyers could aim at anti-Semitic categories.

“Last week we temporarily disabled some of our ads tools following news reports that slurs or other offensive language could be used as targeting criteria for advertising,” she wrote in a Facebook post.

“If someone self-identified as a ‘Jew-hater’ or said they studied ‘how to burn Jews’ in their profile, those terms showed up as potential targeting options for advertisers,” Sandberg continued.

“The fact that hateful terms were even offered as options was totally inappropriate and a fail on our part. We removed them and when that was not totally effective, we disabled the targeting section in our ad systems.”

Some Twitter users on Thursday commented upon Facebook’s revamped policies following Sandberg’s remarks.

Sandberg said that “hate has no place on Facebook – and as a Jew, as a mother, and as human being, I know the damage that can come from hate.”

The Facebook executive added her company is implementing three new standards for preventing abuse of its ad targeting programs.

“First, we’re clarifying our advertising policies and tightening our enforcement processes to ensure that content that goes against our community standards cannot be used to target ads,” Sandberg said.

“Second, we’re adding more human review and oversight to our automated processes,” she added.

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“And third, we are working to create a program to encourage people on Facebook to report potential abuses of our ad system to us directly.”

ProPublica, a non-profit news outlet, reported last week that it was able to target the Facebook feeds of 2,300 users who had expressed interest in several anti-Semitic topics.

The users involved in the ad-targeting voiced openness to subjects including “Jew hater,” “How to burn Jews” and “History of why Jews ruin the world.”

The offensive terms violated Facebook’s policies as users entered them into the employer or education sections of their profiles.

Facebook’s ad system lets advertisers to target people by employer or education, and it also allows people to suggest their own categories.

ProPublica’s report resulted in Facebook disabling the tool after its potential for targeting anti-Semitic targets was exposed.

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