Non-profit investigative journalism publication ProPublica found that it was able to direct advertising toward people that expressed interest in the topics of "Jew hater", "How to burn jews", and "History of "why jews ruin the world".
Facebook has now removed the ability of advertisers to target people based on "self-reported targeted fields" which should lead to more sanitised options - although, it's presumably still possible to target using dog-whistle terms if you know what legitimate phrases to use.
This is a big deal because it could shape the styles of content created for Facebook Watch, the new original programming hub its launched where publishers earn 55% of ad revenue. After ProPublica's article appeared, Facebook built a system that it said would prevent such ads from being approved.
Of course, this not being the first time something like this has happened; Facebook has unfortunately developed a sense of what to say in these situations already.
An employee told ProPublica that the worrisome targeting categories were rarely used and a spokesperson said that they have been removed. Last year, it uncovered that it could target ads in a way that discriminated certain ethnic groups, which led to policy reviews and calls for action even by Congress.
Here's how it worked: Advertisers target campaigns by specifying the groups of people they are interested in reaching.
Want to Buy Ads Targeting 'Jew Haters'? Try Facebook!
While Facebook is reducing its usage of self-reported user data for ad targeting, it is not doing so entirely.
The criticism of Facebook's advertising policies shows no sign of abating, particularly since recent revelations about fake news sites operating out of Russian Federation posting ads on its platform.
UPDATE: Along with Leathern's statement, Facebook also released a blog post that outlined the actions its taking. These two groups had a combined audience of nearly 6000 users.
All in all, the categories included only several thousand users, but their very existence has raised concerns about the efficiency of the social network's hate speech monitoring system.
A Facebook executive reiterated in a statement that hate speech is not permitted on the platform and it bars advertisers from discriminating against people based on religion and other attributes.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg responded to the bloodshed by writing that "there is no place for hate in our community" and that the site was committed to removing content that "promotes or celebrates hate crimes or acts of terrorism".