No More Ad Targeting Users By Race, Facebook Vows

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November 15, 2016 By Ann Brown - MadameNoire

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Facebook has been accursed of many things, including adversely affecting the election by allowing “fake news” to pop up in news feeds. And just last week the social media giant “killed off” many of its users by accidentally posting notices on their profile pages for memorials on Veteran’s Day.

Now in the latest mixup, Facebook has to explain and take a step back from its ad practices. Facebook has been accused in an article by ProPublica of violating anti-discrimination laws. As a result, the social network has announced that “marketers placing housing, employment or credit ads on the social network would no longer be able to use tools that target people by ethnicity,” reported The New York Times. Previously, “advertisers could use Facebook targeting to exclude certain races, or what the company calls ‘ethnic affinities,’ from housing and employment ads, potentially putting the social network in violation of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”
 

 After the article was published, civil rights groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and four members of Congress, chimed in on the issue and there is even a class-action lawsuit in the works. The problem is due to the way Facebook is set up, advertisers can target users by what Facebook calls “ethnic affinity.” Even though you can’t list your race on the platform, through other information such as language and religious views, advertisers can categorize users into racial groups.

“Advertisers can choose to include or exclude certain demographic “affinities” from ads in the United States,” NYT reported. “For instance, they can exclude African-American, Asian-American and four “types” of Hispanic — bilingual, English-dominant, Spanish-dominant or all of the above. Facebook lists the number of people who match those affinities within its ads tool.

For example, if an advertiser wants to reach Americans ages 18 and up on Facebook, the company indicates that there are 26 million people with the “ethnic affinity” of African-American. The company confirmed that because the assignment is based on activity, a white person could be targeted as African-American and vice versa. 

 

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