Facebook Renews Efforts to Prevent Discriminatory Ads

A major controversy arose this year with regards to Facebook’s ad policies. Basically if you were putting up an ad for real estate, job opportunities or credit you had the option to target users based on some highly suspect factors such as ethnicity, age, gender or what zip code you currently lived in.

After several legal suits from civil rights groups spearheaded by the ACLU, Facebook made some changes to its ad policies. Now if you were advertising housing, jobs or credit you no longer had the option to restrict your audience through these options. It makes sense that Facebook didn’t do away with the targeting options entirely because of the fact that some products would benefit from the targeting. For example, you would want to target women if you were selling bras or feminine hygiene products, and not having this option would dilute your advertising with people that would never buy them.

These changes were initially restricted to the ad manager, effectively preventing any user from targeting people based on these factors in certain situations. Now these changes have been expanded. Whereas previously they were only restricted to the web version of the ad manager, now the app version has these changes as well. Instagram’s Promote feature will also no longer have these targeting options, nor will ads created through Facebook Pages as well as the Facebook API which facilitates third party ad buying.

Another major change involves an expansion of Facebook’s ad library. This is essentially a compendium of all ads running on Facebook which civil rights organizations can use to keep a check on Facebook and see if any discriminatory ads are still running. Overall these changes are definitely a step in the right direction, and they indicate that holding Facebook accountable does yield some quantifiable results that are beneficial for everyone involved.

Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

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