Sheryl Sandberg: Racist Ad Targeting a Total Fail

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg speaks during a plenary session in the Congress Hall during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland. Sandberg says Facebook

The changes were announced Wednesday afternoon in a Facebook post written by Facebook's chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg.

"The fact that hateful terms were even offered as options was totally inappropriate and a fail on our part", she added.

Next, Facebook will add more human review to its automated processes.

Following the exposé and attendant public backlash, Facebook disabled the self-reported targeting fields in its ads system until further notice, but now it's making moves to accommodate the advertisers who rely on employer and educational information to target audiences.

Last week, Facebook was the subject of a ProPublica exposé that found ads could be targeted based on characteristics that included terms such as "Jew hater" and "how to burn Jews".

The tech firm reinstated about 5,000 commonly used terms for ad targeting such as nurse, teacher or dentistry after reviewing the ad targeting categories.


Sandberg reaffirmed that content that goes against Facebook's community standards, including anything that directly attacks people based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation or sexual orientation among others, can not be used to target ads.

In addition, Sandberg said the company has clarified its advertising policies and will toughen up its enforcement.

"We have long had a firm policy against hate on Facebook", Sandberg wrote. Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for clarification. "Hate has no place on Facebook - and as a Jew, as a mother, and as a human being, I know the damage that can come from hate", she said.

Sandberg also said that the company was creating a program to encourage people to report abuses of its ad system.

The company is also exploring new ways to encourage users to report offensive ads, although it's unclear how those systems will improve on what is now available.

The reports of racist ads come at a time when Facebook is facing increased scrutiny over its role in swaying the outcome of the 2016 election.

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