BBC reports Twitter makes it possible to target ads at members of hate groups or teens with eating disorders
The Twitter social network has been making it possible to aim advertising at its users according to keywords such as "neo-Nazi", "white supremacist" or "Islamophobe". That is the finding of a recent experiment conducted by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), which managed to repeatedly launch paid content to a target group defined in such a problematic way.
After editors brought the problem to its attention, Twitter apologized and claimed to have solved it. Like Facebook and other digital companies, Twitter accumulates information about its users and creates detailed profiles of their interests and life situations.
The platform can then target advertising rather precisely according to advertisers' requirements, for example, at "parents with adolescent children" or at "amateur photographers". Twitter claimed to have been removing sensitive terms from the list of keywords usable for these purposes, but the BBC has revealed many cracks in that measure.
For example, Twitter's ad-buying interface informed those testing it that a message entered under the slogan "neo-Nazi" could reach between 67 000 and 81 000 users in Britain. For the purpose of testing the system, an anonymous account was used to create a fake advertisement with the message "Happy New Year" which was aimed at three different groups using problematic keywords.
After a brief delay, the advertisement was approved and shown to users for several hours before the author deleted it. According to the BBC, it was possible to publish advertisements on the basis of keywords such as "Islamophobes" and "Islamophobia", for which Twitter estimated a potential audience of roughly 100 000 people.
Another group who could be targeted was Twitter users between the ages of 13 and 24 falling into the categories of "anorexia" and "bulimia". The social network subsequently admitted that its measure aiming to prevent abuse of its advertising system had not been correctly applied.
"The preventive measures comprise a ban on certain sensitive or discriminatory terms, which we are constantly updating. In this case it was possible to use some of those terms for the purposes of targeting. That was an error," Twitter said.
The company has apologized for the problem and says it was immediately corrected. This is just one of many such controversial social media advertising cases in recent years.
For example, last autumn The Intercept news server reported being able to target advertising to 168 000 Facebook users whose interests included "white genocide". The investigative journalism group ProPublica revealed in 2017 that Facebook had been allowing advertisers to target potential audiences based on phrases such as "Hitler did nothing wrong" or "How to incinerate Jews".
- Czech Regional Court returns online hate speech case about death threats against first-graders to lower court, more evidence needed
- Czech ombudswoman: Haters online frequently refuse to admit to themselves that they could be breaking the law
- Zdeněk Ryšavý: Online hate - what can we do? Welcoming remarks at the 2019 Annual Conference of the International Network against Cyber Hate (INACH)
- LIVE BROADCAST: International Conference on Antigypsyism and Hate Speech Online
- European experts say hatred online endangers democracy, nonprofits are monitoring social media response to it
- Roma are most frequently targeted by hatred on the Czech Internet, experts say the law applies online too
- International Network against Cyber Hate and ROMEA hold conference on antigypsyism and online hate in Czech capital
- European Roma are sharing an online hoax from 2002 about poisonous cosmetic samples
- Czech court overturns acquittal for author of racist online comments, prosecution will continue
- Czech ultrachauvinist shares satire online - without getting the joke
- Czech Prosecutor General insists online hate speech is a felony, Supreme Court agrees
- Czech Police, prosecutors intensively focus on online haters, number of prosecutions rising
- French lawmaker, victimized herself by online hate, drafts law against it
- Czech Police investigating hateful online comments inciting violence against Czech Radio reporter that were sparked by politician
- Czech prosecutor appeals after court acquits online hater of saying dark-skinned first-graders should be gassed to death
- German police raid homes of online haters in wake of political assassination
- Czech officials will not prosecute complaints that election advertisement was racist
- Czech bank pulls advertising from disinformation websites, costing them revenue
- Czech Helsinki Committee finds discrimination in real estate advertising
- Jiří Pehe: Once the Roma start using Twitter...
- Czech court sentences brutal, racially-motivated assailant who attacked Romani man in front of children to 7.5 years in prison
- Czech footballer appeals UEFA ban, insists he never said anything racist
- Czech court gives suspended sentence to attacker who threatened to kill Romani women and their children with an ax
- Two brothers of Radek Banga object to his remarks about Roma in Czech media interview and his portrayal of their family in his book
- Czech court reopens case against accused neo-Nazis that has lasted more than a decade
- Belgium: Man who posted racist death threat about Black TV host sentenced to prison time and a fine
- Germany: Trial begins of 12 suspected members of ultra-right terrorist group
- Czech court orders director of housing corporation to apologize to Romani community member for abusive remarks
- Vojtěch Lavička: Czech TV show featuring Romani guys in drag is low "humor" of the fifth-rate category
- European Court of Human Rights finds Slovakia failed to properly investigate police brutality against Romani children
- Czech activist on 8 April: the Romani position in society is deteriorating, zero results from the financing invested
- Czech court finally rules football fans' actions during attack on Black man should be considered misdemeanors, not felonies