Last Friday, Facebook responded to the increasing concerns of ethnically diverse groups who claimed ads in the platform targeted them for certain offers.
Erin Egan, Chief Privacy Officer of the company, wrote in a blog post that Facebook would update its ad policies to stop this issue.
The advertisement policy reform from Facebook represents yet another effort to comply with the user experience.
Recently, the CSO of the company Alex Stamos said Facebook even bought stolen passwords on the black market to ensure user safety.
The social media giant continues to grow against all the odds, summing over 1 billion users worldwide. With more users comes more responsibility. Facebook has seen a bit of a struggle to remain both relevant and apt for its wide-ranging user demographic.
How does ‘ethnic affinity advertisement’ work on Facebook?
Much like Google, Facebook rents advertisement space on its platform for multiple companies and third parties who wish to offer their products and services on the social network.
This approach, however, is both extremely general and ineffective. Not all people have the same needs nor do they have the same interests. This is where Facebook’s background machinery proves its worth to advertisers.
Similar to the fact that Facebook can narrow down where a user lives to show him or her where they vote, or which events will happen soon near them, it can also detect said user’s ethnicity for marketing purposes.
— ProPublica (@ProPublica) November 11, 2016
In this sense, advertisers and promoters can target specific groups on Facebook. This fact caught the eye of ProPublica, an organization, and outlet that advocates for the rights of minorities.
ProPublica managed to set up and launch a housing ad on Facebook that excluded African American, Asian American, and Hispanic users from seeing it. Moreover, it only took minutes to pass through the company’s filters before it was up and running.
What is Facebook doing to address discrimination?
Facebook’s Erin Egan wrote in a company blog post they took these issues seriously and that this kind of advertisement simply had “no place” on the social media site.
Concretely, Facebook is taking two key actions to combat racial and ethnic discrimination on online ads: Pulling out the ‘ethnic affinity’ filter tool for all ads in housing, employment, and credit, and updating its Advertising Policies to engage more professional marketers.
So, after this Friday, advertisers will not be able to target specific groups for ads belonging to the categories mentioned above. However, Facebook is not getting rid of the tool, and other kinds of ads can still filter the users they wish to target.