Two years ago, nonprofit journalism initiative ProPublica released a series of bombshell reports that revealed Facebook let advertisers exclude users based on race. That revelation set off widespread outrage among legal experts and politicians, and Facebook promised earlier this year that it would update its controversial ad policies on its own. However, now the company will be held to that promise; Facebook signed a legally-binding agreement this week brought by Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
The agreement guarantees that ads for housing, employment, credit, insurance and more can’t be hidden from users based on their nationality, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, military history or disability status.
“Facebook’s advertising platform allowed unlawful discrimination on the basis of race, sexual orientation, disability and religion,” Ferguson said in a statement. “That’s wrong, illegal, and unfair.”
Ferguson also pointed out how offensive Facebook’s policies would’ve been if they were practiced in real life versus online.
“If a restaurant owner put a sign out front that said, ‘whites only,’ we all know the reaction. Well, my team posted an ad on Facebook that said ‘whites only,’ and it got accepted,” Ferguson said.
It’s unbelievable that Facebook ever allowed such a terrible policy in the first place, but at least it’s officially corrected now.