Facebook to prevent ad targeting based on race, sex and age

20 Mar 2019256 Views

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Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. Image: MSwissmann/Depositphotos

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Social network to stop allowing advertisers to select race, gender or age group for ads.

In a historic settlement, social network Facebook has agreed to halt advertising practices allowing advertisers to discriminate against minorities.

The company had been criticised for allowing advertisers in key categories such as housing, employment and finance to only show messages to people of a certain race, gender or age group.

‘There is a long history of discrimination in the areas of housing, employment and credit, and this harmful behaviour should not happen through Facebook ads’
– SHERYL SANDBERG

Federal laws in the US prohibit discrimination in ads on the basis of race, gender or age.

Fair advertising

Last year the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and a number of jobseekers filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Facebook and employers, alleging discrimination via the Facebook ad targeting system.

As part of five settlements totalling almost $5m, Facebook has agreed to make major changes to its ad platform to curb discrimination against people when it comes to employment, housing and financial ads, according to Axios.

The $5m will be paid to several groups, including the ACLU, the CWA and the National Fair Housing Alliance.

Facebook will also create a new advertising process that will certify advertisers complying with legal specifications and the social network is cutting the number of options advertisers can use to target ads.

“One of our top priorities is protecting people from discrimination on Facebook,” said COO Sheryl Sandberg. “Today, we’re announcing changes in how we manage housing, employment and credit ads on our platform. These changes are the result of historic settlement agreements with leading civil rights organisations and ongoing input from civil rights experts.

“We’re proud that our services help businesses reach people all over the world who are interested in their products and services. Small businesses now have access to marketing tools that previously only big companies could afford. This levels the playing field so that they can reach audiences they care about. As a result, more than half of small businesses on Facebook say they’ve hired more employees due to growth since joining our platform.

“Our job is to make sure these benefits continue while also making sure that our ads tools aren’t misused. There is a long history of discrimination in the areas of housing, employment and credit, and this harmful behaviour should not happen through Facebook ads,” Sandberg said.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. Image: MSwissmann/Depositphotos

John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist who served as editor of Siliconrepublic.com for 17 years.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com