Facebook to stop ethnicity-based targeting for some ads

Fri Nov 11, 2016 12:44pm EST
 
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By Dustin Volz

(Reuters) - Facebook Inc said on Friday it would no longer allow certain advertisers to exclude racial or ethnic groups when placing ads on its service, following criticism that the practice was discriminatory.

The move comes amid growing scrutiny of how the world's largest online social media network's policies and algorithms shape what content appears in a user's news feed.

The unexpected victory of Donald Trump in the U.S. presidential election this week has prompted questions over how much voters were swayed by inaccurate or misleading news items shared on Facebook, mostly in favor of Trump.

Facebook will disable use of the advertising tool, called 'ethnic affinities,' for ads that offer housing, employment and the extension of credit; areas where certain groups have historically faced discrimination, Facebook said in a blog post.

"There are many non-discriminatory uses of our ethnic affinity solution in these areas, but we have decided that we can best guard against discrimination by suspending these types of ads," Erin Egan, Facebook's chief privacy officer, wrote. (bit.ly/2eZ8Eey)

Facebook collects vast amounts of data on its users, including photographs, allowing it to demographically categorize them in ways that allow advertisers to precisely target content to those they want to reach.

The company said it will now use tools that automatically detect and disable ads offering housing, employment or credit that rely on ethnic affinity marketing, Egan said. It will also update its policies to more explicitly require advertisers to not engage in discriminatory advertising.

The changes come two weeks after ProPublica, a non-profit investigative news organization, published an article showing how Facebook allowed advertisers to exclude groups on the basis of ethnic affinities, a practice it said may violate federal housing and civil rights laws passed in the 1960s.   Continued...

 
3D-printed models of people are seen in front of a Facebook logo in this photo illustration taken June 9, 2016. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration