Facebook disables ‘ad targeting’ that excludes racial groups

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The ability of advertisers to exclude racial groups from the intended audience was temporarily suspended by Facebook Inc., it said Wednesday, November, 29.

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, told African-American US lawmakers that the company is determined enough to do better, following news reports saying the social network failed to block discriminatory ads.

Despite Facebook’s earlier months’ claims of being able to detect and block such ads, ProPublica, a US-based news organization reported that it purchased discriminatory housing ads on Facebook, however got past the Facebook’s review process.

“Until we can better ensure that our tools will not be used inappropriately, we are disabling the option that permits advertisers to exclude multicultural affinity segments from the audience for their ads,” an excerpt from Sandberg’s letter to the Congressional Black Caucus said; this according to a copy posted online by ProPublica as disclosed in a story by  ABS-CBN News.

To publish such ads that indicate a preference based on race, religion, sex or certain classifications, is unlawful under US law.

As the world’s largest social media platform with 2.1 billion users and $36 billion in annual revenue, Facebook has reportedly been on its defensive side when it comes to advertising practices.

Moreover, Sandberg said that advertisers who utilize the social network’s targeting options to include certain races for ads about housing, employment or credit, would need to comply to Facebook’s anti-discrimination policy and with applicable law, by certifying.

In defense to all race- and culture-based marketing in general, she said it was a common and legitimate practice in the ad industry to try to reach specific communities.

Meanwhile, US Representative Robin Kelly, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, said that the company’s action was just appropriate.

“When I first raised this issue with Facebook, I was disappointed. When it became necessary to raise the issue again, I was irritated. Thankfully, we’ve been able to establish a constructive pipeline of communication that’s resulted in a positive step forward,” said Kelly, a democrat. 

Source :

ABS-CBN, Reuters