The Facebook Targeting Snafu

Facebook targeting has come under fire recently by ProPublica for allowing advertisers to target based on hate speech. In response, Facebook temporarily suspended the ability to target by employer.

Yes, people were actually entering racist things like “Jew hater” as their employer or job title in Facebook. It never ceases to amaze me what people will say on social media that has their full name attached.

Facebook is working to reinstate full targeting for advertisers, but the question remains: Whose job is it to police hate speech? And, can AI and technology really understand speech well enough to carry the responsibility for editorial review?

Clearly, in this case the answer was no. Facebook is now moving to human review of the previously suspended categories.

The targeting problem created issues for countless advertisers, especially in the B2B sector. We had to shuffle priorities quickly on Monday to respond to the change. One client had just asked us to add some employer targeting to their campaigns, and we aren’t able to comply with the request. We had other clients to whom we were pitching employer-targeted campaigns, and we were scrambling to figure out what to pitch them in its place. Sure, LinkedIn is the king of employer and B2B targeting, but their high CPCs make them less attractive than Facebook. It’s a less efficient buy. And forget about employer targeting on Twitter or any other social platform.

As much a problem as the Facebook targeting snafu is for advertisers, though, it’s a greater problem for society. Targeting ads based on hate speech is a slippery slope for a mainstream platform like Facebook. They’ve already been accused of allowing foreign advertisers who allegedly hacked our election in 2016, and are working with the investigation to get to the bottom of things. No matter what side of the aisle you sit on, hacking an election is a scary proposition. Facebook had to act.

Notice that no one has gone after Google in all this (at least not yet). Nor have they gone after Twitter – despite the fact that Twitter is a haven for political and racist trolls. It just goes to show how far Facebook has come in the ad world. They’re near the top of the heap – maybe not financially, but in terms of attention.

I remember when Google was the center of attention. Seems the model has shifted. Will Facebook unseat Google any time soon? Maybe. The writing is on the wall.

What do you think about the whole Facebook targeting snafu? Did it impact you? Has Facebook become the darling of the online ad world? Share in the comments!

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