Facebook claims to have withdrawn the ability to racially target advertisements dealing with housing, credit, and employment.
“We are going to turn off, actually prohibit, the use of ethnic affinity marketing for ads that we identify as offering housing, employment and credit,” said Facebook’s vice president of U.S. public policy Erin Egan to USA Today.
The move comes after a backlash that claimed the social network could use the tool for racial profiling, an allegation that Facebook has denied, insisting that its “about ethnic activities and interests.”
“Several news outlets have stated that Facebook allows advertisers to target ads based on race. That is not accurate,” claimed Facebook in March. “Facebook does not have a capability for people to self-identify by race or ethnicity on the platform. As part of its advertising offering, brands can target ads on Facebook to people based on how they might respond to content. The affinity segments are created, in a privacy-safe way, using signals such as different languages, likes, and group membership on the platform.”
Despite the social network’s claims that racial profiling is forbidden, an advertisement campaign for 2015’s N.W.A bi-opic Straight Outta Compton showed two separate trailers to users on Facebook— one targeted at minorities and one for white people.
“They like African-American content… But we cannot and do not say to advertisers that they are ethnically black,” responded one Facebook spokesperson to the controversy. “Facebook does not have a way for people to self-identify by race or ethnicity on the platform.”
According to USA Today, “Facebook’s Egan says the changes, in part, came from ‘constructive dialogue’ with advocacy groups such as the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Fair Housing Alliance, and the Center for Democracy & Technology, the Brookings Institution and Uptrn.”
“In light of the concerns that have been raised, we are taking this step,” said Egan.