According to Facebook, its algorithm can help advertisers reach the perfect audience in a safe and effective way. However, according to a new report from the Association for Computer Machinery, Facebook’s AI may be allowing for discrimination by classifying the race, gender, and age of the people pictured in ads.
Researchers found that more Facebook ads featuring young women were shown to older men, that women see more ads with children, and that Black people see more ads with Black people in them. Of course, this kind of targeting isn’t inherently problematic. However, it can have massive unintended effects when that targeting results in discrimination.
“When we’re talking about advertising for opportunities like jobs, housing, credit, even education, we can see that the things that might have worked quite well for selling products can lead to societally problematic outcomes,” digital researcher Piotr Sapiezynski told Gizmodo.
Facebook has landed in hot water for this issue before, allowing housing advertisers to target users based on race and other discriminatory categories. The company had to take steps to fix that problem then, and it won’t be surprising if this study results in further investigations prompting change.
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