Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 July 2019

Facebook will change targeted advertising to combat discrimination

Facebook says it plans to build a portal specifically for advertisers of housing, employment and credit products as part of a $5m settlement

Facebook said it will not allow advertisers to target users by age, gender, zip code, or other categories covered by anti-discrimination laws. AP
Facebook said it will not allow advertisers to target users by age, gender, zip code, or other categories covered by anti-discrimination laws. AP

In a settlement with five civil liberties and labour groups, Facebook agreed to change how companies can target advertisements for housing, employment and credit in an effort to combat discrimination on the biggest social media platform in the world as well as its other units, Messenger and Instagram.

As part of a $5 million (Dh18.4m) settlement struck Tuesday, Facebook said it plans to build a portal specifically for advertisers of housing, employment, and credit products, which will not allow them to target users by age, gender, zip code, or other categories covered by anti-discrimination laws in the United States.

"Housing, employment and credit ads are crucial to helping people buy new homes, start great careers, and gain access to credit. They should never be used to exclude or harm people," Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer wrote in a post to its website. "We’ve removed thousands of categories from targeting related to protected classes such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and religion. But we can do better."

Facebook reported $11.97 billion in revenue and $4.98bn in profit for the last quarter. Ms Sandberg said at the time that the company has more than 7 million advertisers.

Facebook plans to minimise the number of categories that advertisers can use in their campaigns overall. Any advertiser who wants to run an ad on Facebook, Messenger or Instagram will be required to indicate if their ad is related to housing, employment or credit. The changes are expected to be put in place by the end of this year, according to the Washington Post.

The settlement closes a legal drama sparked by a 2016 Pro Publica investigation that found Facebook advertisers could exclude specific racial and ethnic groups when placing housing ads. Pro Publica, an investigative not-for-profit news outlet in the US, reported that it placed an ad for a housing-related event that excluded African Americans, Asian Americans, and Hispanics. Such exclusion is potentially in violation of US anti-discrimination housing laws.

Last year, one of the US’s top housing civil rights organisations, the National Fair Housing Alliance, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union, the Communication Workers of America and other private parties, filed suit against Facebook, claiming the social media giant needed to build stronger protections against such discrimination.

Updated: March 20, 2019 04:45 PM

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