Advertisers can exclude racial groups on Facebook

Reporters able to post advertisement that excluded Asians, blacks, Hispanics

Advertisers can exclude racial groups on Facebook

World Bulletin / News Desk

Facebook allows advertisers to screen users according to race, a practice that could violate federal anti-discrimination housing laws, a new report released Friday claims.

The social media giant permits advertisers to target or exclude specific ethnic or racial groups using a marketing feature on the social network called “Ethnic Affinities.” Researchers released the report in the non-profit investigative news outlet ProPublica.

“Imagine if, during the Jim Crow era, a newspaper offered advertisers the option of placing ads only in copies that went to white readers,” Julia Angwin and Terry Paris, Jr. wrote in the article. “That’s basically what Facebook is doing nowadays.”

The authors detail how they set up a classified ad for a house and were able to prevent it from being shown to Asian Americans, blacks or Hispanics using the Ethnic Affinities options. That feature, they claim, is in violation of long-standing federal housing laws prohibiting racial or ethnic discrimination.

Violators of the Federal Fair Housing Act can face stiff fines that run in to the tens of thousands of dollars. The report notes the policy might even be in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which has language aimed at preventing racial discrimination in housing ads.

While Facebook does not directly ask users about race, it assigns an ethnic affinity based on page Likes and other engagement metrics. The amount of ways Facebook catalogs its users is staggering by itself – ProPublica found the company uses 50,000 unique categorizations to sort users.

Facebook response to the report is that it bans advertisers from racial discrimination and the Ethnic Affinities option is meant at making marketing more inclusive and relevant.

“Our ad policies strictly prohibit this kind of advertising, and it’s against the law,” Christian Martinez, the head of multicultural at Facebook and a Hispanic woman, said in an official blog post. “If we learn of advertising on our platform that involves this kind of discrimination, we will take aggressive enforcement action. We also realize that, as a website, we often aren’t in a position to know the details of an apartment rental or job application — and so we will also remove an ad from our platform if the government agency responsible for enforcing discrimination laws tells us that the ad reflects illegal discrimination.”


Güncelleme Tarihi: 29 Ekim 2016, 09:13