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 labelled 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. (IANS)
Facebook and Google which offer services to billions of people without asking them to pay a financial fee are performing an assault on the right to privacy on an unprecedented scale, a stinging Amnesty International report said on Thursday, stressing that both companies need to change their business models which are threatening basic human rights.
The abuse of privacy that is core to Facebook and Google’s surveillance-based business model is starkly demonstrated by the companies’ long history of privacy scandals.
“Despite the companies’ assurances over their commitment to privacy, it is difficult not to see these numerous privacy infringements as part of the normal functioning of their business, rather than aberrations,” said the report that came out on Thursday.
Google and Facebook’s total revenues come almost entirely from advertising, at 84 percent and 98 percent respectively.
Their information is so attractive to advertisers that the two companies are often described as having a “duopoly” over the market in online advertising.
“But it isn’t ‘just ads’: the information in their data vaults – as well as the computational insights that Google and Facebook derive from that data, is of intense interest to a host of actors, from companies who set insurance rates to law enforcement agencies,” said the NGO.
While Facebook agreed to pay a $5 billion fine to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over privacy violations in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the European Union’s antitrust regulators have fined Google 1.49 billion euros ($1.7 billion) for abusing its dominance in the online search market by blocking rivals.
In fresh trouble for Google, 50 US Attorneys General probing its anti-trust market practices have decided to expand the investigation into the tech giant’s Android and Search businesses.
According to the Amnesty report, the surveillance-based business model of Google and Facebook has thrived from a largely hands-off approach to the regulation of the technology industry in key countries such as the US, the companies’ home state.
“But despite the real value of the services they provide, Google and Facebook’s platforms come at a systemic cost. The companies’ surveillance-based business model forces people to make a Faustian bargain, whereby they are only able to enjoy their human rights online by submitting to a system predicated on human rights abuse,” the report noted.
This isn’t the internet people signed up for. Citizens today are paying for the Facebook and Google services with their intimate personal data.
After collecting this data, Google and Facebook use it to analyze people, aggregate them into groups, and to make predictions about their interests, characteristics, and ultimately behavior – primarily so they can use these insights to generate advertising revenue.
“This surveillance machinery reaches well beyond the Google search bar or the Facebook platform itself. People are tracked across the web, through the apps on their phones, and in the physical world as well, as they go about their day-to-day affairs,” said the Amnesty report.
In another example of infringing on users’ privacy, Google’s partnership with US healthcare organization Ascension over health data collection of millions of Americans through its “Project Nightingale” has also triggered a federal probe.
According to the NGO report, the companies’ use of algorithmic systems to create and infer detailed profiles on people interferes with “our ability to shape our own identities within a private sphere”.
“Advertisers were the original beneficiaries of these insights, but once created, the companies’ data vaults served as an irresistible temptation for governments as well.”
Ultimately, said the report, it is now evident that the era of self-regulation in the tech sector is coming to an end and further state-based regulation will be necessary.
In its reply, Facebook disagreed with it’s business model being “surveillance-based.”
“It is important to note that no one is obliged to sign up for Facebook. Facebook’s business model is not, as your summary suggests, driven by the collection of data about people. Like many other online companies, Facebook is supported through the sale of advertising,” the social networking platform said in a letter which is part of the Amnesty report.
In a statement given to The Verge, a Google spokesperson said the company is working to give people more control over their data. (IANS)