Facebook disables ethnic exclusion tool for housing, employment, and credit ads

facebook news hire
bloomua / 123rf
Facebook will no longer allow marketers to use its “ethnic affinity” targeting option for ads pertaining to housing, employment, or credit.

The past several weeks have seen the company come under immense pressure following the release of a report by non-profit news organization PropPublica claiming the tool is unlawful. Shortly after the article’s publication Facebook was hit with a lawsuit that alleged the feature violates both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Civil Rights Act of 1968, popularly known as the Fair Housing Act.

Ethnic affinity is a targeting option within Facebook’s ad creation tool, which allows marketers to exclude certain users whose Facebook activities mirror certain target demographics, including African Americans, Asian Americans, or Hispanics — from their promos on the social network.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlaws employers from discriminating against prospective employees as part of the hiring process based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to do the same in regards to housing advertisements.

Despite previously defending the ethnic affinity option as a “common practice” within the ad industry, it seems Facebook has bowed to public pressure. The announcement to indefinitely stop ethnic exclusion from select ads was made in a blog post authored by the company’s VP, U.S. Public Policy, and Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan.

“We will disable the use of ethnic affinity marketing for ads that we identify as offering housing, employment, or credit,” writes Egan. “There are many non-discriminatory uses of our ethnic affinity solution in these areas, but we have decided that we can best guard against discrimination by suspending these types of ads.”

Seeing as the lawsuit is ongoing, Digital Trends reached out to Facebook for an update regarding its stance on the complaint. The company says its decision was not influenced by the lawsuit, which it claims is without merit, and that the firm is still committed to defending itself against the complaint. Facebook also reiterated that its ethnic affinity tool is intended to promote multicultural marketing that helps people see content that is relevant to the “cultural communities they are interested in.”

It added: “Our policies prohibit using our targeting options to discriminate, and they require compliance with the law.”

Facebook told us it is moving the ethnic affinity clusters from the “demographics” section to the “behaviors” section within its targeting tool.

In her blog post Egan claimed Facebook is building tools to detect and automatically disable the use of ethnic affinity marketing for certain types of ads. The company met with a number of important leaders in its efforts to update its advertising policies, including Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Illinois and the Congressional Black Caucus, and Rep. Linda Sánchez, D-California and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Egan also claims Facebook engaged in “constructive dialogue” with several advocacy groups. These include the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the National Fair Housing Alliance, the Center for Democracy & Technology, the Brookings Institution, and Upturn.

Social Media

Facebook says it unintentionally uploaded email contacts of 1.5 million users

Facebook says that over the last two years it unintentionally uploaded the email contacts of 1.5 million users as they signed up to the social networking service. The process has ended and the email addresses are being deleted.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Samsung Galaxy Fold woes, zombie pigs, and more

Today's topics: Samsung Galaxy Fold, Facebook A.I. voice assistants, YouTube comes to Fire TV, facial recognition on airline flights, the SpaceX DART program, Yale's zombie pigs, and much more!
Smart Home

Oh, Zuck, no! Facebook rumored to be creating a voice assistant to rival Alexa

Facebook hasn't been a big player in the smart speaker market, but that may be changing: The social media giant is reportedly working on a digital assistant to compete against Alexa and others.
Social Media

No more moon showers as Facebook Messenger’s dark mode gets official rollout

Facebook Messenger launched a dark mode last month, but to activate it you had to message the crescent moon to someone. Now it's been rolled out officially, and it can be accessed in a far more sensible way — via settings.
Social Media

LinkedIn: Now you can express love, curiosity, and more with new Reactions

LinkedIn is following in the footsteps of Facebook (three years later!) with the rollout of new reactions that give users more ways to express themselves when responding to posts in their feed.
Social Media

Twitter’s experimental Twttr app is even more popular than the real thing

Twttr, the new app that lets regular Twitter users test new features, is proving more popular than the main app, according to the company. The revelation suggests some of the innovations may land for all Twitter users soon.
Social Media

Messenger and Facebook, together again? Facebook tests integrating chats

Longing for the old days where Facebook and Messenger were one app? Facebook is testing an integrated chat option. While Messenger remains more feature-rich, the test brings some chat functionality back into the Facebook app.
Social Media

How to download Instagram Stories on iOS, Android, and desktop

Curious about how to save someone's Instagram Story to your phone? Lucky for you, it can be done -- but it does take a few extra steps. Here's what you need to know to save Instagram Stories on both iOS and Android.
Social Media

Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp went down worldwide for 2 hours this morning

Chaos erupted on the internet this morning, as Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp all went down from 6:30 a.m. to approximately 9 a.m. Thousands of users were unable to access the sites or send or receive Whatsapp messages.

Skype screen sharing for mobile will let you share your swipes on dating apps

Skype is prepping the launch of screen sharing for mobile so you can share your swipes on dating apps, shop with buddies, or, perhaps, show a PowerPoint presentation to coworkers. It's in beta just now, but anyone can try it.
Social Media

Facebook toys with mixing Stories and News Feed into one swipeable carousel

Facebook's News Feed could look a lot like Stories if a prototype the social media giant is working on rolls out to users. The design change mixes Stories and News Feed posts into a full-screen slideshow that users swipe left to navigate.

Twitter has revealed a launch date for its handy hide replies features

Twitter has revealed a launch date for a feature that lets users hide replies to their tweets. The hope is that it will help the original poster filter out offensive or irrelevant content from conversation threads.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Facebook data security, Ubisoft helps Notre Dame, and more

Join DT Live as we discuss Facebook security issues, Ubisoft's plan to help rebuild Notre Dame, and more. We are also joined by Emily Teteut of Snap the Gap, Jennifer Sendrow of New York Public Radio, and DJ and producer Zeke Thomas.

After controversial video, China bans ‘Leica’ on social media

A video that referenced Tiananmen Square got the name of the camera company Leica banned from the social media platform Weibo. Leica says the video wasn't an officially sanctioned promotion.