Facebook removes 5,000 ad targeting options to prevent discrimination

There's too much risk that advertisers will misuse them to exclude demographics.

Jon Nazca / Reuters

Earlier in the summer, Facebook signed an agreement with Washington to keep advertisers from using the platform's tools to selectively exclude certain demographics, which the company first got in trouble for back in 2016. But that wasn't enough for HUD, which filed a complaint last week with similar allegations. In response, Facebook announced today that it has stripped over 5,000 targeting options from its ad tool suite to ensure groups of people aren't deliberately left out.

"While these options have been used in legitimate ways to reach people interested in a certain product or service, we think minimizing the risk of abuse is more important. This includes limiting the ability for advertisers to exclude audiences that relate to attributes such as ethnicity or religion," Facebook's post read.

The Congressional Black Caucus first identified in late 2016 that Facebook's "ethnic affinity" marketing enabled advertisers to exclude groups of people when posting notices for housing and other services. The company vowed to block ethnic targeting for ads about residence, employment or credit, and subsequently required anyone advertising in these niches to certify compliance with Facebook's non-discrimination policy. Soon, all advertisers in the US will need to complete this certification, with a global rollout to follow.