Automating Hate

Julia Angwin, Je Larson, Ariana Tobin, Madeleine Varner, Noam Scheiber and Hannes Grassegger

Facebook prides itself on being the social network that brings the world closer together. In a series entitled “Automating Hate,” ProPublica senior reporter Julia Angwin and her team revealed the practices of the social media behemoth that have done little to unify the world, but instead have fostered hate and discrimination. One article showed how Facebook’s secret rules work to protect white men from hate speech, but not black children. In another story, ProPublica demonstrated how companies blocked an ad in Facebook’s housing category from being shown to African Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans, an exclusion that may have violated laws against discrimination in housing advertising. Another advertisement that recruited applicants for employment with Verizon was revealed to have targeted the Facebook feeds of people between 25 and 36 years old, thus discriminating against older workers. The series prompted Facebook to adopt significant reforms policing content that appears on the website, and yielded this apology from the company: “In the last year ProPublica has uncovered a number of different flaws in our advertising systems,” responded Facebook. “It’s why we apologized and took immediate action to prevent them in the future.”

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