Report: Facebook Ad Algorithm Discriminates Even When Told Not To

UK MPs pressure Zuckerberg to testify on Facebook data breach

Facebook’s advertisement targeting system can’t help but discriminate, according to a report, which claimed it discriminates by race and gender even when told not to.

According to Business Insider, a “research paper published on Wednesday has revealed that Facebook’s ad targeting can discriminate by race and gender, even when advertisers request that their ads are shown to a broad audience.”

“The researchers spent $8,500 running dozens of ads on the platform to determine whether Facebook’s ad targeting was skewing certain ads towards or away from certain groups. In one case, they put together ads for houses up for sale or rent in North Carolina,” Business Insider reported. “They found that ads for houses on sale were delivered to an audience that was 75% white users. Ads for houses for rent were shown to a more mixed demographic.”

“They also ran identical ads for houses while varying the image: in one case an advert contained a white family, in the other a black family. The ad when run with the white family was served to 85% white users, while the same ad with the black family was served to an audience of 73% white users,” Business Insider continued. “This is despite the fact the researchers set the ads to be targeted identically.”

Job advertisements also reportedly discriminated by race and gender, with the “ad-targeting systems” found to be discriminating “automatically.”

In a statement to Business Insider, a Facebook spokesman declared, “We stand against discrimination in any form. We’ve announced important changes to our ad targeting tools and know that this is only a first step. We’ve been looking at our ad delivery system and have engaged industry leaders, academics, and civil rights experts on this very topic — and we’re exploring more changes.”

In 2017, it was revealed that Facebook had been allowing advertisers to exclude people from advertisements and job listings based on age, race, and gender.

In 2018, Facebook signed a legally-binding agreement with the state of Washington, promising to stop discriminatory advertisement targeting practices, and in March, the company settled with a number of civil rights groups over the matter.

On SiriusXM Patriot’s Breitbart News Daily, Tuesday, however, HUD Secretary Ben Carson discussed HUD’s lawsuit against Facebook over its discriminatory advertisement targeting– claiming that despite Facebook’s settlements with civil rights groups, he is skeptical that the company has actually fixed the problem.

“Even though some of the other complainants have been satisfied, we’re not satisfied, because you’re basically saying, ‘We’ll take care of it, just trust us, we’re good guys and we understand what’s going on,’ well that really would not be responsible for us to just assume that, we need to make absolutely sure that their practices are in compliance with the law, and until we’re satisfied that that’s the case, we will continue to pursue this on behalf of the people,” Carson expressed, adding, “Certainly one would naturally think about the further ramifications of this kind of technology, and it would certainly lead to other areas, and I think that’s why the Department of Justice and other agencies have their antenna up too, and we all have to keep our antenna up, recognizing that things creep into a society.”

“Some of the horrible things that happened in the past, that just crept in and became all normalized, and people became numb to it. We can’t allow that to happen again,” he continued. “There was clear cut evidence that they were allowing their advertising platform to be used in a discriminatory manner. There were blatant things like a button you could push that would exclude all women, or exclude all men, and these are protected classes. You simply can’t do that.”

Charlie Nash is a reporter for Breitbart Tech. You can follow him on Twitter, or like his page at Facebook.


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