Facebook needs a new broom

Facebook is currently running an ad campaign telling you that it’s against hate speech.

Facebook was simultaneously enabling advertisers to target people with an interest in “white genocide” just days after the Pittsburgh massacre.

This is horrific.

After selecting “white genocide conspiracy theory” as an ad target, Facebook provided “suggestions” of other, similar criteria, including interest in […] far-right-wing news outlets…

Other suggested ad targets included mentions of South Africa;  a common trope among advocates of the “white genocide” myth is the so-called plight of white South African farmers, who they falsely claim are being systematically murdered and pushed off their land. The South African hoax is often used as a cautionary tale for American racists — like, by all evidence, Robert Bowers, the Pittsburgh shooter — who fear a similar fate is in store for them, whether from an imagined global Jewish conspiracy or a migrant “caravan.”

You may recall that this time last year Facebook enabled advertisers to target “jew haters”. To enable one group of white supremacists is unfortunate. To do it again suggests incompetence.

This wasn’t a mistake, or a computer error. Joe Osborne is a spokesperson for Facebook:

Osborne also confirmed that the ad category had been used by marketers, but cited only “reasonable” ad buys targeting “white genocide” enthusiasts, such as news coverage.

Facebook is an ongoing example of the law of unintended consequences. It didn’t set out to enable hate groups. But it’s made tools that enable hate groups to flourish.

I’ve previously linked to articles suggesting Facebook is Dr Frankenstein, deliberately making a monster it (wrongly) thinks it can control. But I think it’s more like Mickey Mouse in Fantasia, so impressed by its own cleverness that it doesn’t see the mess it’s making until it’s too late to fix it.

In Fantasia, a grown-up (Yen Sid, the sorcerer) comes along and fixes everything. Facebook, clearly, needs some grown-ups too.