Latest in Gear

Image credit: AFP/Getty Images

Google has targeted ads based on hate speech, too

It allowed advertisers to target keywords like "jewish parasites."
526 Shares
Share
Tweet
Share
Save

Sponsored Links

AFP/Getty Images

Yesterday, ProPublica released a report on its investigation into the sorts of ad categories Facebook makes available to advertisers. It found that the website allowed it to target ads to users based on categories like "Jew hater" and "How to burn jews" among other antisemitic options. Today, BuzzFeed reports that Google has a similar problem.

In a comparable investigation, BuzzFeed News purchased and published an ad campaign through Google that targeted users who search with keywords like "why do jews ruin everything." Further, when BuzzFeed reporters typed in those words into the ad-buying platform, Google suggested other phrases to use like "the evil jew" and "jewish parasites." When the team tried phrases like "white people ruin," Google's suggestions included "black people destroy everything" and "black people ruin neighborhoods." After the ads were purchased, they appeared on Google's page when BuzzFeed staff searched for the phrases they had targeted. However, the ads that made it through only accrued 17 impressions before their keywords were disabled by Google after the company received screenshots from BuzzFeed alerting them to the ads.

Google has since disabled nearly all of the terms targeted by BuzzFeed's ad campaign, save for "black people destroy everything," which was still an eligible target when BuzzFeed published their post. But an eligible keyword doesn't mean it's an approved keyword, just that the ad targeting it is under review and has the possibility of being approved. Many of BuzzFeed's ads weren't approved in the end and when that was the case, Google's message in response was, "We value diversity and respect for others, so we strive to avoid offending users with ads or promoted content that's inappropriate for our ad network. Please remove any content that promotes hatred, intolerance, harassment, intimidation, exploitation, violence, or self-harm."

While it appears that Google caught many of the ads targeting racist language, the fact that some got through means there's most certainly room for improvement.

In a statement to Engadget, Google's senior vice president of ads, Sridhar Ramaswamy, said, "Our goal is to prevent our keyword suggestions tool from making offensive suggestions, and to stop any offensive ads appearing. We have language that informs advertisers when their ads are offensive and therefore rejected. In this instance, ads didn't run against the vast majority of these keywords, but we didn't catch all these offensive suggestions. That's not good enough and we're not making excuses. We've already turned off these suggestions, and any ads that made it through, and will work harder to stop this from happening again."

Images: Google / BuzzFeed News

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Comment
Comments
Share
526 Shares
Share
Tweet
Share
Save

Popular on Engadget

Engadget's Guide to Privacy

Engadget's Guide to Privacy

View
Skullcandy's Crusher ANC block noise while you feel the bass

Skullcandy's Crusher ANC block noise while you feel the bass

View
Zero's 2020 electric motorcycles include one that's loaded for adventures

Zero's 2020 electric motorcycles include one that's loaded for adventures

View
‘Call of Duty’ comes to mobile on October 1st

‘Call of Duty’ comes to mobile on October 1st

View
AT&T reportedly considers offloading its DirecTV satellite unit

AT&T reportedly considers offloading its DirecTV satellite unit

View

From around the web

Page 1Page 1ear iconeye iconFill 23text filevr