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Facebook shuts down ad targeting due to hate speech filter

Facebook has had a lot of difficulties developing its AI, particularly in its inability to discern hate speech. This has now resulted in the social media giant having to temporarily suspend advertisers from targeting people via employer or education, as the AI continued to let keywords like “Jew hater” slip through the cracks.

Investigative journalists at ProPublica discovered the problem when looking into Facebook’s ad system, finding the ability to target advertisements via absurd categories such as “Jew hater,” “how to burn Jews” and “History of ‘why jews ruin the world.’” These ridiculous categories were all sitting under the “fields of study” umbrella term, with the audience size reaching as high as 15 people for “Hitler did nothing wrong.”

This reach might seem particularly small and with Facebook’s security measure blocking advertisers with too low of a potential viewership, ProPublica were denied the advertisement.

The publication was able to circumvent this, however, by adding interests of the “German Schutzstaffel,” more widely established as the Nazi SS and Nazi Party, holding a much larger 3,194 and 2,449 people respectively. Finally adding the interest in the ultranationalist party, National Democratic Party of Germany gave a further 194,600 people, pushing the anti-Semitic adverts through within 15 minutes.

Facebook addressed the issue in an interview with Bloomberg, stating that it is “removing these self-reported targeting fields until we have the right processes in place to help prevent this issue.

“Our community standards strictly prohibit attacking people based on their protected characteristics, including religion, and we prohibit advertisers from discriminating against people based on religion and other attributes. However, there are times where content is surfaced on our platform that violates our standards. We know we have more work to do.”

KitGuru Says: While not as scary to me as the two Facebook AI communicating with one another in their own language, it’s still a horrible thought that the social media site is a huge platform for such hate. Hopefully Facebook continues to try and minimalise this behaviour without stepping too much on free speech.

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