Over at The Markup, reporter Jeremy B. Merrill discovered that discriminatory advertisements still turn up on Facebook, despite the company agreeing to end some targeting options for housing, job, and credit ads last year.
In its report, The Markup identified several job listing ads that leveraged Facebook’s platform to discriminate against users of specific ages or “multicultural affinity”:
In May, a Wisconsin health care agency, Tenderness Health Care, posted a job ad on Facebook looking for personal care workers. According to Facebook’s “Why am I seeing this ad” pop-up, when the agency purchased the ad, it asked Facebook to not show it to anyone over 54 years of age. And they asked Facebook to show it specifically to people who have “African American multicultural affinity.” Facebook, apparently, complied.
These ad practices not only go against Facebook’s own policies but could violate federal law. In March 2019, as part of a legal settlement with civil rights groups, Facebook agreed to ban advertisers from using some targeting options for potentially discriminatory ads. At the time, Facebook said that any advertisers buying housing, job, or credit ads would no be forbidden from targeting users based on age, gender, or zip code.
A few days after that announcement from Facebook, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development filed charges against the company for housing discrimination. In its 2019 complaint, HUD alleged that Facebook’s advertising policies “provided a toggle button that enables advertisers to exclude men or women from seeing an ad, a search-box to exclude people who do not speak a specific language from seeing an ad, and a map tool to exclude people who live in a specified area from seeing an ad by drawing a red line around that area.”
Shortly after The Markup contacted Facebook about the ads it discovered, the company announced that it would remove the “multicultural affinity” targeting options within its ad platform.