While Facebook has never had an official way for companies to target ads to people of a certain race (the site doesn’t even let user identify their race), there have long been workarounds that allowed for just that. That’s about to change though.
The site came under fire last year when it was met with accusations that companies offering housing, employment, and credit opportunities could essentially include or exclude certain races. By targeting their ads to (or hiding their ads from) people who spoke certain languages or liked certain pages, a company could make sure only the races they wanted saw the ads.
For example, a company that helps people find housing could choose to specifically hide their ad from people who liked a certain page that promoted African American content, or a page that offered credit services could choose to specifically show their ad to people that liked a page with Hispanic content.
It turns out, that’s a violation of federal law. In response, Facebook has announced that they’ve strengthened their ad policy language and introduced new technology to scrub those ads.
Facebook’s new ad policy clearly states “advertisers may not discriminate against people based on personal attributes such as race, ethnicity, color, national origin, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, family status, disability, medical or genetic condition.”
On the tech side of things, Facebook is rolling out new “machine learning technology” that identifies ads guilty of this violation, specifically focusing on ads that offer employment, housing, or credit services. If a company posts an ad in one of these categories, they’ll be asked to certify that it meets Facebook’s new ad policy. And if an ad gets flagged for a violation, the company can request a manual review.
“We believe in the power of our advertising products to create opportunities for people from all backgrounds,” Facebook said in a statement. “So we are committed to working with these groups toward that goal.”