Facebook Revamps Its Ad-Targeting System To Stop Discrimination

Daniel Fowler
March 21, 2019

"Today, we're announcing changes in how we manage housing, employment and credit ads on our platform".

The social network addressed this in 2017. The litigation was settled out of court, with new policies included as part of the settlement. "We've removed thousands of categories from targeting related to protected classes such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and religion".

The lawsuit, it seems, helped Sandberg see the situation a bit more clearly. In 2018, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) filed a complaint in 2018 against the social media platform for allegedly excluding certain groups from seeing housing ads, according to a Techcrunch report.

"This type of discrimination that we thought was stamped out in the sixties and seventies by our civil rights laws should not be given a new life in the digital era, " said Galen Sherwin, a senior ACLU staff attorney.

The company defended the use of its so-called "ethic affinities" categories for ad targeting in a statement denouncing the anti-discrimination lawsuit it faced.

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Anything Facebook can do to limit the discriminatory ad targeting is a step forward. All advertisers creating related ads must certify compliance with anti-discrimination laws. The investigative reporting website had earlier demonstrated that major American companies, including Uber, were buying employment ads on Facebook that discriminated on the basis of age and gender.

Federal laws in the USA prohibit discrimination in ads on the basis of race, gender or age.

While Facebook later said it would bar housing, employment, and credit ads that discriminate based on "ethnic affinity, " it continued to allow other forms of discriminatory targeting, including gender and disability, civil rights groups alleged.

Facebook has also come under fire for allowing fake Russian accounts to buy ads targeting USA users in the 2016 USA presidential election. For example, such advertisers wouldn't be able to exclude groups such as "soccer moms" or people who joined a group on black hair care. The Menlo Park, California-based internet giant, criticised for years about privacy breaches, hate speech and its use by Russian Federation and others to interfere with elections, has been under intense scrutiny since last week when an alleged gunman livestreamed the mass murder of 50 people in Christchurch, New Zealand. "And a lot of scrutiny on what it should and shouldn't be able to do".

Facebook has long allowed advertisers to target potential customers and employees based on their demographics and interests, as gleaned from the vast trove of data the platform collects. Williamson said this caused some advertisers to change their plans. The most important thing, she said, was to protect Facebook's users from discrimination.

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