17 02 12

With Teeth: Is This Really An Acceptable Ad Keyword, Facebook? (UPDATED)


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I was booking some Facebook adverts earlier today for one of my clients. Targeting the gay audience the artist in question has, I started adding in the keywords we planned to use.

As anyone who uses Facebook’s ad platform knows, when you add in keywords, the system will suggest other terms it thinks may also help in your campaign. If you targeted Take That fans, for example, it would doubtless suggest “Robbie Williams” as a related term to also consider.

Having added in my terms, I was left speechless to see “Faggot (slang)” present as a suggested term. Is this really a word Facebook should be using within its platform – a word I could probably get fired and/or arrested for using in work or on the street?

Even more ironic is the context. Showing me hate terms for the very people I am trying to target isn’t just offensive – its plain stupid. I’m not gay, but if I were and I saw that being offered as a term supposedly related to various gay artists (to be clear, it was a number of gay artists I was using as keywords here), I’m pretty sure my anger would be even greater than it is now.

Recreating this isn’t hard – if anyone wants the keywords to try for themselves as proof its not just a one-off, then by all means get in touch.

I have emailed Facebook asking for an explanation. If I hear back, I’ll be sure to update this post.

UPDATE 22/02/12: As yet I’ve received no response from Facebook regarding this. Reading Twitter this morning though, Gawker appear to have posted what they claim is a Facebook Abuse Standards document outlining how content should be moderated by Facebook staff. Within that, on slide 5, it clearly states that “Users may NOT create content that degrades individuals based on the below protected categories”. One of the categories is Sexual Orientation, covering Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender. So, once again, I would like to simply ask Facebook this: why, when you apparently have a policy banning the use of homophobic terms within your social network, is “faggot” being offered as a suggested term within your ad platform?

UPDATE 2 (sorry!): Something occurred to me here. If “faggot” was being suggested as an ad term, that presumably meant I could simply start with it as my targeting term and see where that led. So, that’s what I did:

So, if it worked with that term, what about others?

PLEASE NOTE: I’m really, REALLY sorry to be typing this stuff in and posting it here. Hate terms offend me beyond all belief but I had to try this… and if you thought it was bad already…

Perhaps NOW this will be considered worthy of Facebook’s attention.

Darren Hemmings
READ MORE: Analysis News
7 responses
  • Sam says:

    The fundamental mistake here is that you think faggot is simply a homophobic term. Lots of gay people have reclaimed the term “faggot”. I get that you’re trying to strike a blow against homophobia, but at the same time, immediately jumping to the assumption that faggot can only have a homophobic context is a bit of a misunderstanding of things.

    If Facebook unilaterally decreed that any use of the word “faggot” was homophobia, then they would be taking away the right for gay people to use the term. It’s the thin end of a very difficult wedge: if you ban the use of faggot, do you also ban the use of queer, which while a term of abuse when used against gay people is a strongly political and proudly reclaimed term within the gay community. Taking it further, should they ban words which, when used by white people against black people are deemed beyond any boundary of decency, but when used within the black community are perfectly acceptable?

  • Darren Hemmings says:

    Its a fair point Sam and I agree there’s certainly an issue with where the line is drawn here. Context is everything, after all, and when stripped of that (as is pretty much the case here) it can be hard.

    That said, I think my second update (just posted after you posted your comment, for the record) demonstrates terms that – from where I sit anyway – are not reclaimed terms in any context and which are instead just plain offensive.

  • Sam says:

    I absolutely agree that context is everything. That said, *contextually* I the second search term you’ve used is not necessarily a hate term either: again, it’s a word that, within certain communities, has been reclaimed. They should be focusing on ensuring that the content of the targeted ads is acceptable, not censoring their search lexicon.

    If people were using those terms to target homophobic or racist ads, then that would be an issue, but I truly believe that allowing people to target ads to specific communities should not be restricted.

    I think removing “unacceptable” terms from the search lexicon is so subjective that it’s the wrong thing to be looking at.

  • Darren Hemmings says:

    Well you raise an interesting point here, in that these are only being offered as potential terms. All Facebook ads are subject to approval, and so in reality I suspect there’s a high likelihood of any ads using these terms being refused. I’d book one to find out, but as I’ve no idea what the consequences of that might be – and need to be able to book ads for my clients – I don’t want to risk it.

    Wonder if anyone else fancies having a go though? Be very interesting to see if the usage of such terms (in a manner perceived as empowering to a specific community) would get approved…

  • Sam says:

    I’ll book one later and report back!

  • Darren Hemmings says:

    Please do Sam!

  • Music Ally says:

    Pink News have an update on this issue. Check out the Music Ally update here: http://musically.com/2012/02/29/facebook-taking-action-over-automated-keyword-slurs/

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