Facebook criticized for 'pseudoscience' ad-targeting category

The platform has paused availability of other ad-targeting categories after this was exposed.

Facebook's 'pseudoscience' category reportedly had more than 78 million users.
Facebook's 'pseudoscience' category reportedly had more than 78 million users.

Facebook was, until last week, allowing advertisers to target users that it had identified as being interested in "pseudoscience," jarring with the company's actions to curb the spread of COVID-19 misinformation across its platforms.

The social media network removed the category from its ad portal last week following a Markup investigation, which found that interest category reportedly contained more than 78 million users and was actively available during COVID-19.

Facebook has been removing content with "false claims or conspiracy theories" relating to COVID-19 since January. However, a separate investigation by U.S. nonprofit Consumer Reports this month found that ads containing deliberate and dangerous misinformation relating to COVID-19 are slipping through Facebook's review system.

A spokesperson at Facebook told Campaign Asia-Pacific, "We've removed this targeting option to prevent potential abuse in ads."

The spokesperson added that the pseudoscience interest category "should have been removed in a previous review" and that the company will "continue to review our interest categories." It has paused the availability of some of its other interest categories while it evaluates their potential for misuse.

A version of this story first appeared on Campaign Asia-Pacific

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