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Facebook ads can still target very specialised belief groups: report

Facebook continues to profile its users for it to sell ads to them, reports LA Times. This time around, the LA Times’ review shows that advertisers could target believers of topics like ‘Joseph Goebbels, Josef Mengele, Heinrich Himmler, the neo-nazi punk band Skrewdriver and Benito Mussolini’s long-defunct National Fascist Party,’ it said.

The report added that Facebook said that it would remove “many of the audience groupings” from its ad platform, and that it would be “taking a broader look at our policies and detection methods.”

  • The LA Times was able to place such targeted ads on the platform, it outlined.
  • The LA Times report cites multiple stories about Facebook selling ads on phrases like “Jew hater” and “Hitler did nothing wrong”, “white genocide conspiracy theory”, other than conspiracy theories about vaccines etc.
  • Facebook told the publication that ‘Nazi-affiliated demographic categories’ were rarely used but did not disclose their origin. It wouldn’t reveal how a user’s interest is linked to nazis as well.
  • Facebook also said that all ad targeting categories were reviewed by humans (since 2017).

Also read: Facebook’s external content review board: How it will be formed and what will it do

Targeted ads discriminatory

Note that in August last year, the United States Department of Justice sided with four housing alliances and groups after they accused Facebook of being discriminatory — by excluding people based on sex, race, gender, Zip code or religion – through its targeted ads. These practices were allegedly used by landlords and property dealers on the platform.

In this case, Facebook’s defense was that it is merely a distribution platform, and not a publisher, with immunity under the Communications Decency Act. The Justice Department, however, found that Facebook is an “information content provider” which means that it acts like a publisher to a certain extent. According to the US government, Facebook developed and curated the content at hand, and not merely hosted it. And hence it is liable.

Facebook’s Q4FY19 earnings and growth

Facebook reported a 30% year-on-year increase in revenues to $16.91 billion, of which ad revenue was $16.6 billion (or 98%) for the quarter ended December 31, 2018. Mobile ad revenues accounted for 93% of ad revenues, up from 89% in Q4FY18. Its total income was $7.8 billion, 6% higher YoY from $7.3 billion in the same quarter last year.

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In the investor call, CFO David Wehner said that DAU growth was driven by growth in India, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Facebook also said that it is developing a new AI ranking model to improve the delivery of ads on the platform, and also that it is using AI to review ads which violate Facebook’s policies, “which was particularly important during the U.S. midterm elections.”

  • Around 2.7 billion people use Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp or Messenger monthly
  • Over 2 billion people use at least one of the four services every day

Image credit: Thought Catalog

Written By

I'm a MediaNama alumna from 2015-16 (remember TinyOwl?) now back to cover e-services like food and grocery delivery, app based transport and policies, platforms and media in India.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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