Facebook Fights Back Against Discriminatory Ad Target.

Facebook is taking steps to prevent controversial discriminatory advertising practices, (specifically in housing, employment, and credit ads) by limiting targeting options for these sectors.

Now, any ads for housing, credit cards or loans, or job postings will no longer be able to target based on zip code, age, or gender, and they will have a much smaller set of targeting categories overall. The action came after several years of lawsuits from various civil rights organisations claiming that Facebook’s ad targeting was intentionally excluding protected classes (i.e. race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religion) from seeing the ads.

While Facebook’s ad policy prohibits discriminatory targeting practices, these interest groups, including the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the Communication Workers of America (CWA, found that more action needs to be taken to protect against abuse.

A Brief History of Facebook’s Ad Discrimination Changes
This is not the first change Facebook has made to prevent discriminatory ad practices on their platform.

Over the past few years, the social media giant has made many small, incremental updates to ensure advertisers are complying with anti-discrimination laws.
To understand how far they’ve come (and how far they still have to go), here’s a breakdown of the actions taken so far across the housing, credit, and employment sectors.

A piece published by ProPublica highlighted how advertisers could use Facebook’s ad targeting options in a discriminatory way. Specifically, it showed how you could intentionally exclude people from seeing ads based on race, age, gender, or other sensitive factors – all practices that are prohibited by federal housing and employment laws.

In response, Facebook released a statement addressing the concerns and announced changes to lock down its ad targeting options, which included: Disabled the use of the “Multicultural affinity targeting” ad option for housing, employment, and credit sectors. Updated advertising policy to be more explicit regarding discriminatory ad policies.

In the months following the ProPublica piece, many more civil rights organisations filed lawsuits against Facebook for these issues. These resulted in the platform making additional changes to that enhanced its ability to catch these types of ads, and better educate the advertiser about its policies in relation to federal laws. These included further updates to its ad policy, which made it even more clear not only that ads can’t be used in a discriminatory way, but called out a list of specific groups protected by anti-discrimination laws. Iris Hearn



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