Facebook To Stop Certain Advertisers From Using Racial Targeting

Facebook has made the decision to stop certain advertisers from using racial targeting when placing advertisements on Facebook.

According to USA Today, Facebook has specifically made the decision to stop housing, credit, and employment advertisers from using racial targeting.

“We are going to turn off, actually prohibit, the use of ethnic affinity marketing for ads that we identify as offering housing, employment and credit.”

Facebook will be taking the prohibition of racial targeting during advertising a little farther by requiring advertisers to affirm that they will not use Facebook as a platform for discriminatory advertisements. Facebook will be offering advertisers educational materials in order to make sure they understand what racial targeting is to make sure they do not place discriminatory advertisements on the website by accident.

The decision Facebook made to stop certain advertisers from using racial targeting came after discussions between the New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Rep. Robin Kelly, and the Congressional Black Caucus, and Rep. Linda Sanchez, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus took place.

Both policy makers and civil rights leaders expressed concerned that Facebook advertisers would utilize ethnic affinity marketing to run advertisements that discriminate against minorities. Erin Egan, Facebook’s vice president of U.S. public policy, pointed out the fact that it is prohibited by federal law for advertisements for housing and employment to exclude people based on their gender, race, or other sensitive details.

The University of Connecticut law professor Jon Bauer, who is also an expert in housing discrimination law, believes Facebook making the decision to stop advertisers from using racial targeting will be a positive one.

“[It] strikes me as a positive approach that moves them forward towards compliance with the law and that ensures they are not facilitating discrimination.”

USA Today also reports that Facebook has been under fire for allowing advertisers to use racial targeting when placing advertisement campaigns on the social media website. This was especially true because Facebook was allowing advertisers to place housing advertisements for rentals or homes for sale and use racial targeting to exclude certain ethnicities.

Pro Publica, the name of a non-profit organization based on New York City, first brought the issue of Facebook advertisements using racial targeting when it placed an advertisement for a housing-related event that excluded African Americans, Asian Americans, and Hispanics. Following the incident, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which is the federal agency that enforces fair housing laws, held a number of discussions with Facebook in order to address the “serious concerns” they had about the advertising practices currently being utilized on the website.

Facebook makes it possible for advertisers to create a sponsored advertisement to be displayed to various Facebook users. The tool allows Facebook advertisers to target specific audiences in order to increase the chances of people seeing the advertisement actually being interested in clicking on the advertisement. While there is nothing necessarily wrong with targeted advertising, Facebook is under fire because it is illegal for certain type of advertisements to use racial targeting.

“These tools are intended to be inclusive. That’s why we created these tools. People have been using multicultural advertising for years in order to reach people.”

Discrimination lawyers, however, are starting to come forward and express a serious concern for how legal the tools advertisers are using on Facebook actually are.

USA Today reports a series of Facebook users filed a lawsuit last week against Facebook claiming that advertisement targeting violated the Fair Housing Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“There is no mechanism to prevent ad buyers from purchasing ads related to employment/housing and then excluding based on these illegal characteristics.”

Facebook claimed the lawsuit filed against the website is without merit and the company will be fighting it.


Rep. Yvette Clarke believes Facebook can avoid similar problems in the future by taking steps towards hiring people of color and women to join their staff. Statistics show that Hispanics represent 4 percent of Facebook’s U.S. workers and African Americans represent 2 percent. Statistics also show these numbers have not moved since 2014 and are lower than other industry averages.

Did you know that Facebook’s staff is not very culturally diverse? Be sure and let us know what you think about the decision Facebook has made to stop advertises from using racial targeting in the comments section below.

[Featured Image by Alexey Boldin / Shutterstock.com]