Facebook to Eliminate More Than 5,000 Ad Targeting Options in Bid to Prevent Discrimination

August 21, 2018, 6:15 PM UTC

Facebook is eliminating over 5,000 ad targeting options in another bid to prevent discriminatory advertisements from appearing on its service.

The media giant said Tuesday that by removing the thousands of ad targeting options, it can “prevent misuse” by advertisers to create advertisement campaigns that unfairly exclude certain groups of people.

“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,” Facebook (FB) wrote in a public statement published to its service. “This includes limiting the ability for advertisers to exclude audiences that relate to attributes such as ethnicity or religion.”

Facebook did not reveal any of the individual ad targeting options it is removing, but they likely include some of the examples shown in a recent complaint filed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development against the social network.

The agency alleged in its complaint, filed last week, that Facebook’s advertising platform lets organizations choose from a number of ad targeting options that can lead to discrimination. For example, advertisers can choose to not show their ads to people that are interested in “assistance dog” or “deaf culture,” which means that the ads are discriminating those with disabilities, the complaint alleged.

From the complaint: “Facebook enables advertisers to discriminate based on national origin by not showing ads to users whom Facebook categorizes as interested in ‘Latin America,’ ‘Southeast Asia,’ ‘China,’ ‘Honduras,’ ‘Somalia,’ ‘the Hispanic National Bar Association’ or ‘Mundo Hispanico.'”

For its part, Facebook told BuzzFeed News that its decision to remove the 5,000 ad targeting options was not related to the HUD investigation. “We’ve been building these tools for a long time and collecting input from different outside groups,” a Facebook spokesperson said.

Facebook has been repeatedly criticized from preventing advertisers to run discriminatory ads on its service, much of which has been brought to light by investigating news outlet ProPublica.

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