Facebook Updates Ad Policies To Prevent Racial Targeting

facebook iconFacebook came under intense scrutiny from civil rights advocates and law makers last fall when it was revealed that Facebook let advertisers exclude users based on race. After the controversy, Facebook announced it would change its ad policies to prevent potential discrimination, and now that update is finally rolling out.

At first, Facebook defended the ability for advertisers to target users based on criteria like race, while also acknowledging that this feature could be used for ill.

“This kind of communication is positive: it reflects an advertiser’s respect for the diverse communities it is trying to reach,” Facebook said at the time. “But it’s important to know that there’s also negative exclusion — for example, an apartment building that won’t rent to black people or an employer that only hires men. Our ad policies strictly prohibit this kind of advertising, and it’s against the law.”

However, Facebook soon changed its tune and promised a change to the rules.

According to the site, its new policy “makes it clear” that advertisers can’t discriminate based on race, gender, sexual orientation, age and other personal attributes. Facebook also said it will use machine learning technology to analyze housing, credit and employment ads for potential discrimination.

That fact that it took an intrepid team of reporters to make Facebook change its rules is problematic, but at least this loophole allowing for discrimination is gone.