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Anorak | If you can pay the fee Facebook will hook you up with ‘Jew haters’

If you can pay the fee Facebook will hook you up with ‘Jew haters’

by | 15th, September 2017

Thanks to ProPublicawe know that you can book adverts on Facebook that target anti-Semites. Most Facebook user of would ignore these ads, of course. Active Nazis are thin on the ground. And as the Jewish joke goes, “If anyone was going to hate us, thank God it’s the Arabs.” But Jew hating is increasingly popular. I am amazed and disappointed that here isn’t more outrage about rising anti-Semitism.

Propublica, whose stated mission is “to expose abuses of power and betrayals of the public trust by government, business, and other institutions, using the moral force of investigative journalism to spur reform through the sustained spotlighting of wrongdoing” has Facebook in its crosshairs.

ProPublica says:

Want to market Nazi memorabilia, or recruit marchers for a far-right rally? Facebook’s self-service ad-buying platform had the right audience for you. Until this week, when we asked Facebook about it, 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.’”

All this stuff exists offline. And thanks to the internet, readers and collectors of such racist nonsense can be monitored – all 2,300 of them in the gigantic Facebook ecosystem. I’d argue that if Facebook – owned by a Jew – can take their money, then good for them. Free speech and free thought are cornerstones of democracy. If people want to talk about hating Jews and conspiracy theories, let them.

So ProPublica paid £30 for “promoted posts” targeted at those Jew-hating Facebookers.

In all likelihood, the ad categories that we spotted were automatically generated… Facebook’s algorithm automatically transforms people’s declared interests into advertising categories.

Which begs the question: who programmed the computer?

Rob Leathern, product management director at Facebook, has issued the following statement:

We don’t allow hate speech on Facebook. 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. However, there are times where content is surfaced on our platform that violates our standards. In this case, we’ve removed the associated targeting fields in question. We know we have more work to do, so we’re also building new guardrails in our product and review processes to prevent other issues like this from happening in the future.”

Of course, hate speech is free speech. That doesn’t mean you should set out to assault and intimidate people. It means you are free to say what you want and for it to be freely debated in public. Calling something hateful is too-often used to shut down free expression. So what did Facebook do wrong?

Ira Glasser, a former executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, now president of the board of directors of the Drug Policy Alliance, nails it:

How is ‘hate speech’ defined, and who decides which speech comes within the definition? Mostly, it’s not us. In the 1990s in America, black students favoured ‘hate speech’ bans because they thought it would ban racists from speaking on campuses. But the deciders were white. If the codes the black students wanted had been in force in the 1960s, their most frequent victim would have been Malcolm X. In England, Jewish students supported a ban on racist speech. Later, Zionist speakers were banned on the grounds that Zionism is a form of racism. Speech bans are like poison gas: seems like a good idea when you have your target in sight — but the wind shifts, and blows it back on us.

You want to have official endoresment of what can be said? Surely not.

As for Facebook, well, it’s not a public service. It’s a profit-making company not a moralising force for spiritual salvation.



Posted: 15th, September 2017 | In: Key Posts, News, Technology Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink