Published: Thu, March 21, 2019
Markets | By Otis Pena

Facebook Drops Targeting Options for Ads Following Dispute

Facebook Drops Targeting Options for Ads Following Dispute

Facebook, the world's largest social network with 2.7 billion users and almost $56 billion in annual revenue, has been on the defensive over its advertising practices, while also fending off privacy scandals and disclosures that Russian Federation used its platform to meddle in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The allegations claimed Facebook's ad systems excluded certain people from seeing housing, employment and credit ads based on their age, gender or race.

While Facebook later said it would bar housing, employment, and credit ads that discriminate based on "ethnic affinity, " it continued to allow other forms of discriminatory targeting, including gender and disability, civil rights groups alleged.

Those rights advocacy groups filed a lawsuit a year ago against Facebook for unlawfully discriminating against certain populations via their ad targeting tools.

Sandberg added that Facebook is building a tool so that people can search for and view all current housing ads in the USA targeted to different places across the country.

The organizations found that the social network's ad targeting options is vulnerable to discriminatory content. "We're grateful to everyone who has worked with us to improve our ads tools and to the NFHA and ACLU for their leadership".

The changes to Facebook's advertising methods - which generate most of the company's enormous profits - are unprecedented.

Facebook Won’t Let Employers, Landlords or Lenders Discriminate in Ads Anymore

Facebook has announced it will push limits against discriminatory ad targeting.

The targeting is often extraordinarily precise: nearly anything that anyone puts in a Facebook profile, combined with anything in any other database that Facebook has managed to tie to those details, can be selected by an advertiser.

Facebook unveiled major changes to how it uses targeted advertising on Tuesday, settling a legal challenge alleging it discriminated in messages on jobs, housing, credit and other services.

"Today's changes mark an important step in our broader effort to prevent discrimination and promote fairness and inclusion on Facebook", Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said in a statement. Expect critics and industry observers to watch closely, however, because years of promises and investigations have, let's say, strained trust in Facebook's ability to not completely bork things further. "Millions of people view Facebook's ads each day", it reads. ProPublica was able to buy dozens of home-rental ads targeted at audiences that specifically excluded "African Americans, mothers of high school kids, people interested in wheelchair ramps, Jews, expats from Argentina and Spanish speakers".

While Facebook has said it's never seen the kind of discriminatory behaviour critics are anxious about, ProPublica found dozens of examples in a different 2017 report and then even more examples in a follow up 2018 investigation.

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