Anyone who uses Google has seen internet ads pop up that bear an uncanny similarity to something they’ve been searching for. But that ad-targeting technology appears to have a dark side. Google, the largest advertising platform in the world, has allowed advertisers to target racist and bigoted keywords, according to a new report from BuzzFeed News.
And Twitter appears to have a similar problem with its ad campaigns, according to a report in The Daily Beast, also published Friday. Both reports follow a ProPublica investigation that exposed the ability to target racist and anti-Semitic categories in Facebook’s ad platform.
The BuzzFeed reporters discovered that Google suggests problematic keywords when certain phrases are typed in the company’s ad-buying tool.
When reporters typed “White people ruin ” the tool suggested targeting internet users searching “black people ruin everything,” “blacks destroy everything” and “black people ruin neighborhoods.” When they typed “Why do Jews ruin everything,” Google suggested running ads next to searches for “are jews evil,” “jews run the world” and “jews own everything.”
After BuzzFeed News notified Google about the problematic keywords, the company removed them from its advertising tool.
“This violates our policies against derogatory speech and we have removed it,” a Google spokesperson told the website.
When it comes to ads on Twitter, the The Daily Beast uncovered similar pitfalls, with Twitter allowing advertisers to target millions of users who are drawn to terms like “wetback,” “Nazi” and the n-word.
The report says Twitter offers a feature to target “follower look-alike” accounts, which allows customers to type in keywords like “Hitler” and “kike” in order to find users with similar interests. Some of those users included handles like “@AdolfHitler_” and “@SecretHitler.”
Twitter did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast when asked why it allows customers to target these audiences.