Facebook tightens safeguards against hate-driven targeted ads

Jon Fingas

Facebook was caught more than a little off-guard when ProPublica discovered ads targeted at racists, and today it's taking steps to prevent those hate-filled ads from showing up again. The social network's Sheryl Sandberg has announced plans to tighten control of ads, including more human involvement. There will now be "more manual review" of ad targeting options to prevent promos based on hateful terms. Also, it's developing a program that will encourage you to report abuses directly -- you might not have to wait for a news story for Facebook to take action.

Sandberg notes that hate-fueled targeting has "always been in violation" of Facebook's ad policies, but the company is now clarifying those policies and improving its enforcement mechanisms to reduce the number of ads that slip through the cracks.

The executive is quick to acknowledge that Facebook simply hadn't anticipated the possibility that hatemongers might abuse ad targeting that way. "That is on us," she says, adding that the site will be "unrelenting" in fixing future abuses. It's a candid admission, but the question is whether or not it'll be enough. As we saw with Russia-linked election ads, human review doesn't automatically guarantee that Facebook (or anyone else) will intercept dodgy material before it's too late. This is really just a start -- Facebook will likely need to play it by ear and see just how well it can anticipate abuses.

Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook)