Facebook Removes Some Ad Targeting After Discrimination Settlement

Apr 2, 2019 | Social Media

Civil rights groups asserted that Facebook’s robust targeting features made it easy for advertisers to discriminate in ways that ranged from the unfair to illegal.

Facebook Ad Discrimination Settlement

Facebook recently removed certain targeting options for ads related to housing, credit and employment. This change was the result of a legal settlement between Facebook and several prominent civil rights organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and the National Fair Housing Alliance.

The Problem

Those groups asserted that Facebook’s robust targeting features made it easy for advertisers in the housing, credit, and employment fields to discriminate in ways that ranged from the unfair to the illegal.

In a statement released online, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg acknowledged the challenges they faced and stated a commitment to stemming the tide of unfairness: “There is a long history of discrimination in the areas of housing, employment and credit, and this harmful behavior should not happen through Facebook ads.”

The Solution

Facebook’s posted policies already prevented advertisers from discriminating based on protected classes – that means race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and religion. In fact, Facebook eliminated 5,000 targeting options in August of 2018, “limiting the ability for advertisers to exclude audiences that relate to attributes such as ethnicity or religion."

But the coalition of civil rights groups and leaders demanded more action. In Facebook and Sandberg’s words, these additional steps were promised on March 19, 2019:

  • Anyone who wants to run housing, employment or credit ads will no longer be allowed to target by age, gender or zip code.
  • Advertisers offering housing, employment and credit opportunities will have a much smaller set of targeting categories to use in their campaigns overall. Multicultural affinity targeting will continue to be unavailable for these ads. Additionally, any detailed targeting option describing or appearing to relate to protected classes will also be unavailable.
  • We’re building a tool so you can search for and view all current housing ads in the US targeted to different places across the country, regardless of whether the ads are shown to you.

Altering the landscape of ad targeting is a big step for Facebook, especially when you consider that they made nearly $56 billion in revenue in 2018, and 99% of that money was generated through advertising, according to the Washington Post.

What’s Next?

Even with these announced changes, targeted ads aren’t disappearing. Business owners in the housing, credit, and employment spaces will still be able to search out their most valuable potential customers.

In fact, one could look at the new parameters and see this as a powerful catalyst to buy ads that are targeted even more specifically. For instance, in the housing field, a marketer who previously targeted audiences in a narrow zip code range, might now choose audiences in a larger geographic area who recently changed jobs, since career shifts are often accompanied by a housing change. This kind of creative problem-solving can result in a steady stream of qualified leads.

A full-time full-service digital marketing team is your best resource for creative targeting options that capture the attention of audiences who are ready to buy your products and services. Contact the marketers at Informatics today if you’re ready to start a campaign that is compliant with best practices and profitable.