Facebook to Expand Efforts Against Ad Discrimination

On December 3, Facebook announced that it has taken steps to prevent ad discrimination as part of its settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other civil rights groups. The initial suit was filed in March; Facebook was sued by other parties and faced pressure from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

In March, Facebook announced it was preventing housing, employment or credit ads from targeting specific users based on age, gender and zip code and that it would begin to enforce these rules. Starting December 5, Facebook will increase the enforcement of these rules across its various ad platforms.   

Facebook stated that in the United States, ads pertaining to housing, employment or credit can no longer target people based on age, gender, zip code, race, or ethnicity.

Facebook stated that advertisers will have to relearn how to use the platform with the new restrictions in place. However, “there are and have always been very reasonable and legal non-discriminatory advertising practices’ that use age- and gender-based targeting,” Graham Mudd, Facebook’s VP of Product Marketing for Ads, stated. Mudd also felt that this was “the right tradeoff” to fight discrimination.

Facebook stated it is expanding enforcement beyond its Facebook Ad Manager to include all places that ads can be purchased on Facebook, including via the Ads Manager app, Instagram Promote, ad creation tools on Facebook Pages and the Facebook Marketing API. It is also expanding its searchable ad library to include targeted US housing ads. Facebook’s library will begin archiving ads on December 4 for housing advertisements and will include employment and credit ads in the future. Currently, the Ad Library serves as a searchable database for ads in relation to social issues, elections or politics; Facebook is adding the new US housing ads section. This addition could help Facebook identify discriminatory ads. Facebook requires advertisers to certify and categorize their advertisement, however, reviewers will verify that ads are being correctly categorized.

“The ad library is so important because it enables interested advocates, people, et cetera to look at all of our ads as they’re live in our system and tell us whether we got it right or wrong,” Mudd said.

The original suit, filed by the ACLU and other groups, claimed that the Facebook employment ads discriminate based on age and gender, excluding women and older individuals. Facebook specifically discusses discriminatory practices in its ad policy. The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) describes various types of discrimination. This is a move by Facebook to prevent the influx of litigation it faced as a result of the discriminatory ads and its policy.