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Noah Berger / AP

Facebook is making changes after it emerged that offensive self-reported demographic information, like "jew haters," could be used to target ads within Facebook's automated advertising system.

In a personal post, COO Sheryl Sandberg announced the company is strengthening its ads targeting policies and tools.

The steps include "clarifying" ad policies, "tightening" enforcement, limiting the targeting options to 5,000 commonly-used terms, and creating a program to report issues with ads.

Why it matters: Ad buyers love Facebook because it's very efficient: It's cheap (although getting more expensive), and very effective in targeting the right people with the right format. It can be efficient because of its massive scale, both in the people it can reach and the data it can gather and let marketers use to target people. Clamping down on targeting terms and tightening controls limits Facebook's efficiency for marketers with bad intentions and ensures that Facebook remains a brand-safe environment both for its advertisers and publishers.

Our thought bubble: This is an especially poignant message coming from Sandberg, a revenue expert, who repeatedly reminds investors on earnings calls that Facebook's top priority is to help marketers execute effective ad campaigns. Facebook's willingness to clean up targeting terms in its system shows that they take this issue seriously.

Go deeper

45 million Americans under winter storm watches near New England

Computer model projection showing the winds moving around the powerful East Coast storm on Saturday Jan. 29, 2022. Image: https://earth.nullschool.net

Nearly 45 million Americans are under winter weather alerts and warnings from North Carolina to northeastern Maine, as a major winter storm threatens the region.

Why it matters: It is predicted to be the biggest blizzard since 2018 to strike the Northeast with more than 2 feet of snow possible in parts of eastern Massachusetts, according to the National Weather Service.

2 hours ago - World

Australian PM pledges $700M for climate change-threatened Great Barrier reef

A green sea turtle is flourishing among the corals at Lady Elliot island in Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Photo: Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Friday a AU$1 billion ($703 million) investment plan for the Great Barrier Reef.

Why it matters: The nine-year plan for projects including water quality improvement, reef conservation and supporting some 64,000 tourism jobs comes months ahead of this year's federal election. It has been criticized by scientists and environmental groups for failing to tackle climate change.

Judge nixes Gulf of Mexico oil leases in climate-focused ruling

Tug boats prepare to tow the semi-submersible drilling platform Noble Danny Adkins through the Port Aransas Channel into the Gulf of Mexico on December 12, 2020 in Port Aransas, Texas. Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

A federal judge on Thursday canceled the Biden administration's late 2021 sale of new oil-and-gas drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

Why it matters: The ruling that the greenhouse gas emissions analysis by the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) was insufficient is a win for green groups that challenged the decision, as they seek to curb fossil fuel production.