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Facebook will no longer let users exclude racial groups in ad targeting

Facebook will no longer let users exclude racial groups in ad targeting
[Photo: JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP/Getty Images]

Facebook is finally disabling tools that allowed marketers to exclude minorities or other multicultural affinity groups from their ads. The move is in response to increasing criticism that its advertising system allows marketers to discriminate against racial and ethnic groups.

Those that can’t be excluded also include religious groups, segments related to the LGBT community, and others.

The social networking giant also says it will now subject ads that specifically include minorities to additional review and require marketers to confirm that they are aware of anti-discrimination policies and law to ensure that the messages don’t discriminate. The ads will be reviewed for approval within 24 hours by members of Facebook’s business integrity team, a company spokesperson told Fast Company.

“People, businesses and organizations around the world use Facebook to advertise,” said Rob Goldman, Facebook’s vice president for ads growth and solutions, in a statement. “It’s important we make sure they use our tools responsibly. And a key part of this is working to stop ads that discriminate against people. We have guidelines to prevent this and other types of abuse, and we’ve strengthened how we enforce those guidelines over the years.”

According to USA Today, the move was announced in a letter to Congressional Black Caucus chairman Cedric Richmond, Democrat of Louisiana. “Until we can better ensure that our tools will not be used inappropriately,” Facebook wrote, “we are disabling the option that permits advertisers to exclude multicultural affinity segments from the audience for their ads.”

Any ads that target or exclude potentially sensitive groups will be subject to expanded review before they appear on Facebook, the company says.

Facebook’s advertising systems came under scrutiny after ProPublica found last year that landlords could illegally target their housing ads only to whites. The company said then that it would fix the system, but ProPublica recently wrote that it was still able to easily buy ads excluding numerous groups, including African-Americans, Jews, and others.

As part of its review of the system, Facebook says it will be reporting the results of an audit of its tools to “groups focused on discrimination in ads,” and will “work with them to identify further improvements we can make, and then publish the steps we’re taking.”

It’s also adding the ability for users to report ads for violating the company’s policies.DT