Hindu users ‘targeted’ with Islamic ads on Facebook and Google

You might have seen advertisements that ask you to ‘become a Muslim’ or know more about ‘how Islam is a better religion’ on some websites you visit or on platforms like Facebook. In fact, such ads could have been seen on OpIndia website too on some occasions. Some readers had ‘complained’ to us about this by writing to us:

Anti-Hindu religious conversion ad
A reader complains about Islamic propaganda ad on OpIndia

For the record, OpIndia uses Google Ads. These ads are served on the basis of algorithm that Google employs. A user’s past surfing behaviour e.g. what other websites he had visited or what terms he had searched for, etc. play a major role in the ads you see on our website or any other website displaying Google ads.

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OpIndia doesn’t choose to display any particular ads to you that are served through Google Ads. Some advertiser is putting money to target you for Islamic conversion based on your virtual profile and activity. The identity of this advertiser is known only to Google and not to OpIndia. If you click on the ads, you may find more details, but we do not encourage this behaviour.

Similar ads propagating Islamic conversions have been reportedly being served on Facebook too, and recently a user shared the following information behind why such ads were being served to the readers:

The image seen in the above tweet is a piece of information provided by Facebook, which has recently tried to bring some transparency in the way ads, especially political ads, are served on their platform after the Cambridge Analytica fiasco.

As can be seen in the screenshot, Facebook has disclosed that an ad named “Truth About Islam” – which the Twitter user @Radhasureshbabu described as content advertising Islam as ‘better alternative’ to Hinduism – was ‘targeting’ people who had ‘Hinduism’ as part of their profile on Facebook.

In essence, some individual or entity is targeting users who are Hindu or are interested in Hinduism and is trying to serve them ads that propagates Islam. The details about who is funding this Islamic ad campaign was not disclosed by Facebook because the social media giant had announced last month that it will disclose who paid for the ads only for the ‘political ads’.

While it can be argued that propagating one’s religion is not illegal or unethical, this ‘targeting’ of Hindu users can prove to be controversial. Not only on Facebook, in all probabilities, Google Ads are also being served based on keywords targeted at Hindu users, making them exposed to ads that propagate Islam or other religions.

It should be noted that controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik also used to claim that he was only propagating Islam – which was his constitutional right –  before he started propagating openly anti-Hindu messages, and was later found indulged in anti-national activities.

Last year in September, both Facebook and Google had to face criticism for allowing ads that encouraged anti-Jewish sentiments. Anti-semitic terms were available for ‘targeting’ on both the platforms, and Facebook had announced measures to restrict such ads after the controversy broke out.

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