Facebook Updates Ad Policy in Response to Discrimination Concern

  • Company will no longer allow ethnic targeting for certain ads
  • New tools will affect housing, credit and employment ads

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Facebook Inc. will no longer allow marketers to target ads by ethnic affinity for certain types of housing, employment or credit, responding to concerns that its practices were discriminatory.

The company said it had been meeting with congressional leaders and organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union after a ProPublica report that explained how Facebook’s ads could be targeted to exclude minorities from seeing certain opportunities. The company’s ad system will automatically disable the use of ethnic marketing, Facebook said Friday in a statement.

“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,” Facebook said.

After the original report in October, the company pointed out that its tools weren’t necessarily discriminatory. Facebook’s advertising business has succeeded in part because of the wealth of information it has about its 1.79 billion users, allowing businesses to target their promotions very specifically. But users and anti-discrimination leaders continued to push back against the policies.

“Facebook’s decision to end this type of marketing in housing, employment, and credit advertisement is the right decision, and brings comfort to many consumers and policy makers devoted to the issue of equity,” U.S. Representative Robin Kelly, a Democrat from Illinois, said in a statement. “Technological innovation must remain our great equalizer, not evolve into a means of division.”

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