Today, Facebook announced that it will no longer allow advertisers to target or exclude different races in ads relating to housing, employment, and credit. In a statement to USA Today, Facebook VP of public policy in the United States said:
“We are going to turn off, actually prohibit, the use of ethnic affinity marketing for ads that we identify as offering housing, employment and credit.”
The social network’s tool allowing advertisers to target or exclude groups based on “ethnic affinity” came under fire last month when ProPublica published a detailed report that showed how an advertiser can post a housing ad that excluded African-Americans. That type of exclusion is illegal under federal law in ads related to housing and employment.
At the time, Facebook claimed that its “ethnic affinity” category only grouped users by interest within a certain race, not by the users’ race itself.
Today’s announcement does not mean that the company will stop the practice of “ethnic affinity” marketing entirely. Instead, the company will build tools to disable “ethnic affinity” marketing for ads about housing, employment, and credit. Facebook will also be updating its advertising policies to provide “more education.”
Advertisers will no longer see the “ethnic affinity” category in the “demographics” section. Instead, the category will now be visible in a “behavior” section.
Facebook said that to arrive at these changes it met with politicians and civil rights groups. In a blog post, Egan wrote:
“We take these issues seriously. Discriminatory advertising has no place on Facebook.
We are constantly trying to find ways to improve enforcement of our anti-discrimination policies. We have been meeting with important leaders, including New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, US Rep. Robin Kelly of Illinois and the Congressional Black Caucus, and US Rep. Linda Sánchez of California and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, to listen to their concerns and their ideas about how Facebook can better support our existing efforts to combat wrongful discrimination.”