Oy! Facebook’s Jewdar Returns – Social Media Insider

Today's Social Media Insider…

Why is it that the most egregious ethnic profiling I'm subjected to is on Facebook?

Consider
the reelection campaign from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. I
receive brochures from him in the mail at least weekly, all targeting
me as someone likely to be of a certain demographic or interested in a
particular issue. Bloomberg's TV ads run constantly, all undoubtedly
targeted to TV network, perhaps the content of certain programs, and
the geographic area. But only on Facebook have I seen an ad for Mayor
Mike with the candidate's first name spelled out in Hebrew. The
evidence is pouring in: Facebook's Jewdar is back.

I first covered Facebook's Jewhavioral targeting
a year ago. The advertiser that targeted me with an ad entitled "Hey
Jew" turned out to have overzealously addressed his creative to
everyone in large U.S. metropolitan areas. I hadn't seen signs of
religious targeting since then.

I still don't list my
religion on my Facebook profile, just as I refrain from listing my
political affiliation. Yet something new happened last week: Facebook debuted ad targeting options
for people who are connected to an advertiser's Page, event, group, or
application. Right as this happened, Jewdar activity picked up. Did I
miss some story about religious targeting as well, or was it all
coincidental?

I reviewed my profile and discovered I still
had some Jewish markers displayed — my "favorites" include such
decidedly Jewish masterworks as "Annie Hall," "Everything is
Illuminated," and "The Daily Show." The groups I joined over the past
year have been more secular. Just because Jeff Pulver seems to spend
half his time in Israel, would I really be pegged a Jew just for
joining his group "Friends of #140conf"? And what about the Pages? I
became a fan of Zagat Survey, which you would hardly use if keeping
strictly kosher unless you wanted to check out restaurant descriptions
like "the waiter tells YOU what you're having" and "saltier than the
Dead Sea." I also proudly became a fan of the non-kosher (and Southern
Baptist) Chick-Fil-A, the one reason I never mind having more than an
hour to kill in Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson airport, even if I'm
spending the entirety of the subsequent flight wondering why I needed two fried chicken sandwiches.

The
Jewish ads that tracked me down weren't just from Mayor Mike. Another
ad beckoned, "Artistic Judaic Promotions: Contemporary Judaica for
home, gifts and institutions." Then there was the one for "The New Jew"
that urged me to "read this poignant and humorous story about how a
Catholic girl from the Midwest became a New York Jew – a most
unexpected journey!" And yet my journey had no end in sight.

Other
forms of targeting on Facebook make more sense. I see a high percentage
of ads targeting my association with my alma mater, which I have always
displayed on Facebook, and it's easy to target ads by university and
major. Other ads clearly target my geography and professional
interests. But religious targeting on Facebook remains a "nisht nisht,"
as Sacha Baron Cohen's character Bruno would say. What's all the more
puzzling is that I don't see ads even hinting of associating me with
any other religion or ethnic group. How come there are no ads inviting
me to add some awesome new Ramadan application? Why wouldn't I want to
transcend time and space with other Buddhists?

I tested
sample ads with the new targeting options in place. Facebook limits
targeting to Pages, events, groups, and applications that you run. A
group lobbying to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," for instance,
couldn't target everyone who's a fan of Barack Obama. Similarly,
Argentinean women couldn't target their matchmaking services to people
who signed up for a Facebook event hosted by South Carolina Governor
Mark Sanford. Even if I was a fan of a Jewish-themed Page or a member
of a Jewish group, Facebook's controls only allow the originator or
moderator to run ads targeting me. And for the record, I'm not
currently a fan of "The New Jew."

This brings me back to
Mayor Mike. Along with the ad in Hebrew, other ads proclaimed support
for him from Brooklyn and Staten Island, two boroughs in which I've
never lived. It certainly feels like the campaign will try anything to
reach me, and when it's wrong — which it is, most of the time — it
leaves a bad impression. I'm still left to wonder, though, why I see
his ads with Hebrew lettering and not Chinese.

3 thoughts on “Oy! Facebook’s Jewdar Returns – Social Media Insider

  1. I’ve wondered about this as well—particularly because I’ve gotten a ton of “Interfaith Marriage” ads—showing what’s clearly a Jewish ceremony. For a second I thought I’d cracked it, that my boyfriend listed his religious affiliation—but that I hadn’t. But in fact, though we’re both Jewish, neither of us mention it anywhere on Facebook. So why does it think I’m looking for a mixed marriage?!

  2. I’ve wondered about this as well—particularly because I’ve gotten a ton of “Interfaith Marriage” ads—showing what’s clearly a Jewish ceremony. For a second I thought I’d cracked it, that my boyfriend listed his religious affiliation—but that I hadn’t. But in fact, though we’re both Jewish, neither of us mention it anywhere on Facebook. So why does it think I’m looking for a mixed marriage?!

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