Yesterday, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg defended the integrity of the news feed which has been under fire from social pundits who believed it played a key role in Trump’s victory. And now, the company is taking another major step to disable the use of ‘ethnic affinity’ as a criterion for housing, employment, or credit ad targeting on its platform.
For those unaware, Facebook after introducing major changes to its community guidelines with regard to content censorship got caught in allegations of racism. Today’s announcement comes on the heels of the recent ProPublica report which suggested the social media behemoth allowed advertisers to follow illegal advertising measures.
The company’s ad tool allowed them to exclude certain sections of the society – African American, Asian American, Hispanic and others – from their target audience. This affinity marketing segment handed over immense power to the advertisers, who could discriminate against a particular section of the society.
The fears of this feature were further fueled by certain civil servants who believe that groups who’ve historically faced discrimination were prone to this targeting. But, the advertisers would no longer be able to do the same as Facebook has banned the ethnic categorization in certain areas — more prone to discrimination than others. Also, the company plans to remove any running ads that violate this new guideline.
Commenting on the decision, Erin Egan, Facebook’s VP, US Public Policy and Chief Privacy Officer says,
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.
In the official blog post, Facebook clearly states that the company is not foregoing the ”ethnic affinity” ad targeting. But instead, it is building new tools that better understand ads to detect and immediately ban the use of illegal ethnic affinity for housing, employment or credit. In addition, the social media also plans to update its advertising polices & educate advertisers to not engage in discriminatory advertising practices.
We are grateful for the partnership of a number groups who have engaged in a constructive dialogue with us about these issues, including the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, [and others].
We are making these changes to deter discrimination and strengthen our ability to enforce our policies,