An algorithmic gaffe has once again led to New Zealand’s biggest shopping website accidentally promoting Nazi stuff.
Trade Me has apologised after promoting Mein Kampf as a Christmas gift idea on social media. An Auckland Instagram user saw the post in their feed last night, which contained several gift options including the 1925 autobiographical manifesto written by Nazi Party leader Adolf Hitler.
“Mein Kampf,” the caption began. “Find the perfect gift and get them what they really want this Xmas!” The Spinoff understands that the now-deleted Instagram carousel also included go-kart and fitness equipment, and was online for at least seven minutes.
“My initial reaction was that it must have been a fake account or something similar to the ‘official’ Twitters that we’ve been seeing pop up,” the Instagram user told The Spinoff. “Or maybe the account’s been hacked… but then I checked it and it was the real one.”
Sally Feinson, director of brand, marketing and communications for Trade Me, has apologised for the post, explaining that it was caused by an algorithmic error. “We hate to see anyone have a bad experience with us and we’re really sorry that this happened”
“With these types of ads, our team creates a marketing template and listings are automatically pulled through via an algorithm. We did not individually select this book to appear in this ad. While these ads are usually a good and relevant marketing tool, they don’t always get it right.”
Earlier this week, the Trade Me account posted a tongue-in-cheek apology after its algorithm recommended a shrinkable emergency urinal. The clip featured the caption “POV: facebook’s dynamic ads algorithm does you dirty…” with hashtags #algorithm #fail #digitalmarketing.
In July, Stuff reported that a Trade Me user was left “horrified” after a portrait of Adolf Hitler was promoted by the site in its ‘$1 reserve auction’ specials. After emailing Trade Me to complain, the user then received an automated email promoting a book on 1936 Nazi Olympic Games, the cover of which featured a Swastika and the Third Reich emblem.
“The fact that Trade Me isn’t just hosting it, but they’re promoting it and profiting off it is sickening,” the user told Stuff. Members of the Jewish community raised concerns at the time about how Trade Me’s algorithms may lead New Zealanders down a dangerous rabbit hole.
Feinson said that Trade Me’s policy on materials of this nature remain clear: “Books which contain information about Nazi personalities or the holocaust can only be listed where they contain information that informs the reader of its historical context.”
There are currently six copies of Mein Kampf listed on Trade Me, five listings for Adolf Hitler stamps and 51 results for the “Nazi” search term.
As for the promotion of these materials, Trade Me has assured users that this type of material will not be reappearing in their social media feeds. “We’ve spoken with our team and put measures in place to prevent this from happening again,” Feinson said.