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Facebook Takes Steps To Combat Discriminatory Ads

February 9, 2017, 12:42 AM UTC
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Facebook is testing new tools aimed at curtailing discriminatory ads on its social network.

The company said Wednesday that anyone who submit ads related to housing, employment, or credit opportunities will now be required to certify that they adhere to the site’s anti-discrimination policies.

With the new tool, Facebook hopes it will be able to more quickly reject discriminatory ads. Policymakers and civil rights leaders had “expressed concerns” about the topic in following a report in October by investigative news outlet ProPublica that detailed how some companies were able to create Facebook housing and employment ads that would exclude certain ethnic groups.

In the original ProPublica report, the news organization bought a housing ad targeted at Facebook users interested in buying a home, and excluded users who identified as African American, Asian American, and Hispanic.

The new technology coincides with recent updates to Facebook’s advertising policies that it claims will make “make our existing prohibition against discrimination even stronger,” Facebook said in a statement.

“We make it clear that advertisers may not discriminate against people based on personal attributes such as race, ethnicity, color, national origin, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, family status, disability, medical or genetic condition,” the company said.

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Facebook (FB) said that several people and organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Brookings Institution, and New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman helped the company with updating its ad policy and new technologies.

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“We look forward to their continued partnership as we work to strengthen our enforcement while increasing opportunity on Facebook,” the company said.

Facebook new tool uses machine learning technology to automatically flag housing, employment, and credit-related ads so that businesses posting will be shown the company’s new anti-discrimination policies and related laws. Those advertisers will then have to certify that they have read those policies and that their ads do not violate them.