Facebook Limits Targeting Options To Reduce On Discrimination

Facebook Limits Targeting Options

Facebook Limits Targeting Options To Reduce On Discrimination

Facebook is to remove 5,000 targeting options from its ad platform to prevent racial, religious and ethnic discrimination. The move comes following a complaint from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that the platform was in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

The HUD filed an official complaint against Facebook after carrying out an investigation into the advertising practices of landlords and lettings agents. The investigation found that some landlords were violating the principles of the Fair Housing Act by using exclusion terms to limit advertising to specific demographics.

The targeting options affected are mostly exclusions which allow advertisers to specify audiences they do not want to view their ads. Following the change, advertisers will no longer be able to exclude audiences based on ethnicity, religion and beliefs. Terms such as Evangelicalism, Native American, Islamic Culture, Passover and Buddhism have been removed from the Ads Manager platform.

In a post explaining the issue, Facebook said: “We’re committed to protecting people from discriminatory advertising on our platforms. That’s why we’re removing over 5,000 targeting options to help prevent misuse”.

New certification to be rolled out

In addition to removing the targeting options, advertisers who post housing, employment or credit ads on the platform will also be required to register compliance with Facebook’s non-discrimination policy.

This process involves being educated on the contents of the policy and agreeing to its terms and conditions. Once completed, advertisers will be issued with a certificate of compliance. Currently, this certification is only required for US advertisers, but Facebook says they will roll it out to other territories in time.

This is not the first time Facebook has been forced to cull phrases from its ad platform. In 2016 a ProPublica investigation found that companies and landlords were using ethnic affinity targeting options to exclude specific demographics from job search and housing advertisements.

When the ProPublica investigation came to light, Facebook set up a team to review the issue and removed an unspecified number of phrases related to race, religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation from the platform. This latest round of removals comes on top of this, which could amount to tens of thousands of phrases in total.

While 5,000 terms may seem like a lot, Facebook is not removing exclusions altogether. Advertisers will still be able to use them to target specific customer demographics, they just won’t be able to exclude audiences by ethnicity, race, religion, or sexual orientation. Most would agree that such exclusions shouldn’t have been allowed in the first place.