Social networking giant Facebook has apologised after letting an ad campaign target its users interested in “White genocide conspiracy theory”. News site The Intercept had no trouble in launching the campaign just a few days after conspiracy theory about external forces trying to exterminate the White race purportedly inspired the man who killed 11 Jewish worshippers at a Pittsburgh synagogue last week.
Earlier this week, The Intercept was able to select “white genocide conspiracy theory” as a pre-defined “detailed targeting” criterion on the social network to promote two articles to an interest group.
The interest group, according to Facebook, comprised 168,000 users “who have expressed an interest or like pages related to White genocide conspiracy theory”.
The ad which was labeled provocatively as “White Supremacy – Test” was approved manually by a member of Facebook’s advertising wing, the report said.
After the news site contacted Facebook for comment, company spokesperson Joe Osborne told The Intercept that the “White genocide conspiracy theory” category had been “generated through a mix of automated and human reviews, but any newly added interests are ultimately approved by people”.
“This targeting option has been removed, and we’ve taken down these ads. It’s against our advertising principles and never should have been in our system to begin with. We deeply apologize for this error,” the Facebook spokesperson said.
This is not the first time Facebook came under the scanner for its role in promoting hate speech through ad campaigns.
Last year, the investigative news outlet ProPublica reported that “the world’s largest social network enabled advertisers to direct their pitches to the news feeds of almost 2,300 people who expressed interest in the topics of ‘Jew hater’, ‘How to burn jews’, or, ‘History of why jews ruin the world'”.
At that time Facebook promised that it would explore ways to fix the problem and assured the public that it was building new guardrails in its product and review processes to filter out such ad campaigns.
The Intercept report revealed that Facebook still has work to do to prevent extremists groups from spreading their hate-filled messages.