A report from BuzzFeed News today found that Google's ad platform permitted advertisers to sell ads next to anti-Semetic and racist queries, including "Jewish parasite", "the evil Jew", and "black people ruin everything".
Sridhar Ramaswamy, Google's senior vice president of ads, said in a statement that his team's goal is to stop the keyword suggestions from making offensive suggestions, and that its system does have language that should have alerted an advertiser that was attempting to use the terms in BuzzFeed's test. While reports of using similar targeting methods on Facebook and Google's platforms made clear that there were only a few thousand people in the USA that would see these ads, Twitter's platform appears more far-reaching.
According to BuzzFeed, when you type "White people ruin" into Google's ad platform, you will receive additional suggestions of search terms for your ads such as "black people ruin neighborhoods".
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These reports follow a ProPublica investigation that revealed this week how Facebook enabled advertisers to direct their pitches to the news feeds of people who expressed interest in the topics of "Jew hater", "How to burn jews", or, "History of 'why jews ruin the world".
Buzzfeed was able to run ads for only some of the phrases, and Google pointed out that the vast majority were not available for purchase, although the oversight wasn't failsafe.
According to a report by The Daily Beast on Friday, Twitter ads returned 26.3 million users who may respond to the term "wetback", 18.6 million to "Nazi" and 14.5 million to "n***er". That's not good enough and we're not making excuses.
In response to the BuzzFeed piece, a Google official said the site had turned off the "offensive suggestions" and pulled the accompanying ads, vowing to "work harder to stop this from happening again".
Along with Google, Facebook dominates the fast-growing market for online advertising, in part because it lets marketers target their ads based on huge volumes of data.
Revelations that tech companies were profiting from people who could have used the systems to recruit anti-Semites or racists for a march, for example, came a week after Facebook ads were used in the run-up to the presidential elections.