San Francisco: Facebook Inc. removed the ability for advertisers to target users who express interest in anti-semitic categories like “Jew haters", after investigative news site ProPublica found the options in the social network’s system.

The company’s self-service advertising system automatically populates interest categories based on what community members post about themselves. Facebook said it has built new “guardrails" into product-and-review processes to prevent something similar from occurring in the future.

Facebook said it found similar instances of offensive targeting based on users who self-report their education and employers. It didn’t share examples. The company removed those, and said it’s considering removing the ability to target offensive self-reported profile traits in ad campaigns.

“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," the company said. “However, there are times where content is surfaced on our platform that violates our standards. We know we have more work to do."

Facebook software creates targeting categories for advertisers automatically, and the company adjusts them after problems are noticed by people. Facebook has run into similar issues with this type of reactionary enforcement before, both in its ad business and consumer-facing services. Its live video service has occasionally shown live murders or suicides with enough time to go viral before being noticed by the company and taken down. Bloomberg

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