“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,” the article read. ProPublica went on to describe how Facebook Ads allowed groups to target users who showed interest in anti-Semitic content.
Facebook responded to ProPublica’s investigation by removing some potentially problematic targeting fields, including education, employment, field of study, and job title.
“To help ensure that targeting is not used for discriminatory purposes, we are removing these self-reported targeting fields until we have the right processes in place to help prevent this issue,” the company said in blog post.
The use of user-provided data for discriminatory ad-targeting is just the latest in a series of controversies surrounding search engine and social media advertising tactics. The proliferation of “fake news” targeted to likely Trump voters during the 2016 presidential election, for instance, continues to attract media attention and criticism. Earlier this year, major advertisers like Coca-Cola and Walmart announced plans to suspend their YouTube marketing efforts over reports that their ads were appearing alongside jihadist and neo-Nazi videos.
Digital marketing remains a relatively young industry, one that is dependent on perpetually evolving technologies, communications platforms, and massive monopolistic companies. Together, these elements have amassed an almost unfathomably large collection of user data. This information provides unprecedented marketing opportunities to all manner of brands, companies, and organizations; it also presents tangled ethical questions that are likely to grow louder and more urgent in coming years.
GrowthEngine Media takes these questions seriously. We aim to provide ethical and transparent digital marketing and social media advertising services that deliver meaningful results while maintaining your company’s sterling reputation. As a Premier Google Partner All-Star Agency with access to valuable insights on Google’s preferred practices, GrowthEngine Media can help you improve your company’s visibility and get you found online by the customers that matter to you.