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Facebook temporarily stops advertisers from filtering by race

And reviewing how ad buyers have discriminated against other groups.
David Lumb, @OutOnALumb
November 29, 2017
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Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

A year ago, ProPublica discovered they -- and conceivably anyone else -- could make ads on Facebook that weren't shown to certain ethnic or racial groups. The social network claimed it would fix the issue and prevent legally-prohibited advertising discrimination on its platform. Weeks ago, ProPublica repeated its experiment and again found it possible to exclude ads along ethnic and racial lines. In response, Facebook has temporarily halted this advertising feature while it investigates how it has been used.

"Until we can better ensure that our tools will not be used inappropriately, we are disabling the option that permits advertisers to exclude multicultural affinity segments from the audience for their ads," Facebook reportedly said in a letter to the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus; The document was shared with USA Today.

Facebook is suspending this feature, known on the advertising platform as its 'multicultural affinity marketing' targeting option, while it looks into how advertisers exclude groups. That investigation will go beyond race and ethnicity to understand how those from other demographics, like those from the LGBT community and religious groups, are also excluded using this advertising tool. Facebook will share the results of its investigation with the affected groups.

Going forward, ads that target specific racial and ethnic groups will receive additional scrutiny before appearing on Facebook, and their creators will have to confirm that they comprehend both anti-discrimination law and the social network's policies. All ads will also get a button in the top right corner flagging them for review. These new requirements will be added over the next few weeks, and Facebook will again enable its 'multicultural affinity marketing' feature after its review process.

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