Facebook came under fire last year when it was revealed that advertisers could, in essence, target or exclude users by race through advertisements on the site. Following a ProPublica investigation that outlined the practices in greater detail and explained how the policy was in violation of housing law, Facebook announced in November that it would be making changes to help prevent future cases of discrimination on the site. Today, Facebook is following up with more changes to its ad policy and enforcement tools to further address the issue.
According to Facebook, the new ad policies “make it clear that 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.” Facebook will also be working to help educate advertisers on anti-discrimination practices.
Facebook doesn’t allow for advertisers to specifically market to specific races or allow users to self-identify race. But the company can and does use various signifiers to group users based on things like the content users interact with, pages they like, or what their language preferences are, which allows advertisers to target ads based on those interests.
Along with the new documentation against targeted discrimination, Facebook announced that it would be using machine learning technology to help identify ads that offer housing, employment, and credit opportunities, which some advertisers were attempting to exclude users who were interested in African-American, Asian-American, and US Hispanic content on the site.
Now, ads that offer housing, employment, and credit opportunities that attempt to either specifically include or exclude those demographic groups will be disapproved, while housing, employment, and credit ads that is targeted toward another audience section will be prompted to certify that the advertisement complies with the updated policy. Advertisers will also be able to request a manual review of ads that get flagged under the new rules.