The ad-targeting feature that allowed Facebook advertisers to target “Jew haters” and other offensive labels was “totally inappropriate and a fail on our part,” according to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.
Sandberg posted on Wednesday to express disappointment with the company’s embarrassing targeting options and explain Facebook’s plan to rectify the situation.
The issue was that advertisers were able to target users with words and phrases they manually entered under categories like field of study, school or job title. So when users put “Jew hater” as their job title, that automatically appeared as a legitimate targeting category to advertisers.
Facebook shut down the targeting option last week and said Wednesday that it is will reopen that targeting capability but in a more limited form. Facebook is reinstating 5,000 targeting options that had been temporarily banned — terms like “nurse” or “teacher.” Sandberg said these terms were the most commonly used, and have all been manually approved by a human.
In the future, Facebook won’t add new targeting options to this list without manual approval, a spokesperson confirmed.
Facebook also said it’s working on a program to let people “report potential abuses of our ads system” to the company, though it didn’t offer details.
As we mentioned last week, Facebook’s reliance on software to do things like sell and deliver ads — and determine what people see in News Feed — keeps getting the company into trouble. With two billion users, automating these processes is a necessity. But Facebook keeps getting burned by a lack of human oversight.
Here’s Sandberg’s full post.