ProPublica, a non-profit news organisation based in New York, reported last week that it was possible to buy Facebook ads targeted to people who, on their Facebook profiles, had listed anti-Semitic topics in their field of study or work. Once people put those phrases on their Facebook profiles, the topics automatically migrated onto the company's advertising platform, as if they were education or job data that would be useful to marketers. Facebook temporarily disabled some targeting capabilities last week in response to the ProPublica investigation.
Sandberg, who is Jewish, said in her post: "The fact that hateful terms were even offered as options was totally inappropriate and a fail on our part." Facebook should have discovered the unintended feature on its own, Sandberg added. The company would create a program to encourage people on Facebook to report potential abuses of its ads system directly to the company, she said. U.S. lawmakers have separately criticized Facebook for allowing Russian operatives to buy U.S. political ads before and after the 2016 elections. Sandberg's post did not mention the alleged Russian ads.
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