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Facebook Overhauls Ad Platform to Prevent Housing Discrimination

Facebook Overhauls Ad Platform to Prevent Housing Discrimination

Overhaul of advertising platform will prevent customized ads targeting people by age, gender or ZIP code.

After years of being accused of enabling housing discrimination, Facebook has announced massive changes to its platform that are being called “not only historical, but impactful” by the National Fair Housing Alliance. These changes are the result of settlement agreements with several civil rights organizations and with input from civil rights experts, said Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg.

In a post titled “Doing More to Protect Against Discrimination in Housing, Employment and Credit Advertising,” Sandberg said that changes were being made to ensure that Facebook’s ads tools weren’t misused.

“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,” she said, acknowledging that the changes were the result of settlements with the National Fair Housing Alliance, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Communication Workers of America and other private parties.

The changes are threefold:

  • 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.
  • A new tool will enable users to search for and view all current housing ads in the U.S. targeted to different places across the country, regardless of whether the ads are shown in a user’s feed.

“Getting this right is deeply important to me and all of us at Facebook because inclusivity is a core value for our company,” said Sandberg.

One plaintiff to file suit was the National Fair Housing Alliance, which applauded the changes. “The impact of these limitations is enormous,” the NFHA said in a statement. “Facebook has 210 million U.S. users. The lion’s share of its revenue, almost $17 billion in Q4’18 alone, comes from advertising, making it the largest digital advertising platform in the nation. Millions of people view Facebook’s ads each day. As a leader in both the tech and advertising sectors, Facebook’s willingness and commitment to making sweeping changes to its platform, algorithmic systems, and guidance to advertisers and users is a major step forward.”

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