Facebook is fighting back against advertisers that discriminate. The world’s largest social media website has been severely criticized for its ethnic affinity advertising tool. The technology, while not intended to be used as a discrimination tool, has been used for just that. Ethnic affinity has been used to advertise for jobs, housing and financial services carefully targeted to eliminate certain groups from seeing the ad.
Ethnic affinity works by allowing advertisers to craft ads targeted to highy specific audiences. As a result many advertisers were using it to block the ads from being seen by minorities and other groups. The tool can weed out people by profiles that includes specifics such as race, gender, age, favorite movies, food preferences and geography.
The issue became known in early 2016 and lawmakers, civil rights groups and other advocates quickly pounced. The tool apparently violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits this type of discrimination.
Facebook annouced in November of last year it was going to makes changes to the policies that govern the use of the tool. Facebook’s policies “make it clear that advertisers may not discriminate against people based on personal attributes such as race, ethnicity, color, national origin, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, family status, disability, medical or genetic condition.” The company also announced that will help educate advertisers on anti-discrimination practices.
Facebook also annouced that it will use machine learning technology together with the new policies. The technology will help identify advertisers that exclude users who show interest in African-American, Asian-American and Hispanic content on the site.
Facebook will still offer the ethnic affinity tool but ads offering housing, employment, and credit opportunities that include or exclude certain demographic groups will be disapproved. Ads targeted toward another audience section will be prompted to certify that the advertisement complies with the new policy. Advertisers will have the ability to request a manual review of ads that get flagged under the new rules.
Breaking It Down
This is a great step by Facebook but discrmination is not so easily discouraged or defeated. The whole idea of advertsing is to reach a desired audience. But stereotypes are inherent in the mind of all people. This leads to the idea that certain groups are racially or culturally inadequate for a certain product or service. Permitting the marketer to specify who he wants to do business with is not exactly wrong. However, allowing the advertiser to exclude people based on inherent biases is wrong and creates the type of second class citizen that the Civil Rights Act was meant to eliminate. This is a tough situation for Facebook and I respect their reaction. But, in all honesty, we as society need to to continue to work on how we see one another. Maybe social media can help. Maybe not. But one thing for sure, at least Facebook has not shied away from the fight.