Facebook is taking responsibility for ads that target audiences based on self-reported information. In their profiles, users wrote descriptions about their hatred of certain groups, and ads displayed for them based on that quality.
Identifying hate groups wasn't the original intent of targeted ads, which Facebook describes as a way to "Connect with the people who will love your business." Yet an article in Verge says the "problems were baked in from the start." The design did allow people to choose a way to identify, and the descriptors weren't monitored.
COO Sheryl Sandberg expressed her disappointment:
"Seeing those words made me disgusted and disappointed – disgusted by these sentiments and disappointed that our systems allowed this," Sandberg said in a Facebook post. "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. The fact that hateful terms were even offered as options was totally inappropriate and a fail on our part."
"We removed them and when that was not totally effective, we disabled that targeting section in our ad systems."
She also talked about how Facebook's internal systems failed:
"Such targeting has always been in violation of our policies and we are taking more steps to enforce that now," Sandberg said. "We never intended or anticipated this functionality being used this way – and that is on us. And we did not find it ourselves – and that is also on us."
- What responsibility does Facebook have in this situation? Should the company have been monitoring people's descriptors and how ads targeted specific groups?
- What else, if anything, should the company do now?