Facebook to stop some ads that exclude races

Facebook is making changes to its self-service ad portal after criticism over a feature that allowed users to exclude target audiences based on their “ethnic affinity.”

ProPublica reported a couple of weeks ago that it was able to buy a housing-related ad that excluded users with African-American, Asian-American and Hispanic ethnic affinities in the United States. Facebook said at the time that ethnic affinity doesn’t necessarily mean race. But the issue caught the attention of the Congressional Black Caucus and others, who said such targeting violates the Fair Housing Act.

Now the social network says it is building a tool that will automatically disable the ethnic-affinity feature for certain types of ads, such as for housing, employment or credit.

“Discriminatory advertising has no place on Facebook,” Erin Egan, the company’s vice president for U.S. public policy and chief privacy officer, said in a post Friday. “We are constantly trying to find ways to improve enforcement of our anti-discrimination policies.”

Egan said the company met with New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Illinois, and the Congressional Black Caucus, and U.S. Rep. Linda Sánchez, D-California, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to discuss the issue. In addition, the company said it engaged in “constructive dialogue” with advocacy groups such as the ACLU, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the National Fair Housing Alliance and others.

The company also said it is updating its advertising policies to stress to advertisers that they should not discriminate, and will require them to affirm that they won’t.

 

Photo from AFP/Getty Images

 

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