Facebook Announces Changes to “Ethnic Affinity” Marketing

Written by Alethea Lange

This morning, Facebook announced major changes to its “Ethnic Affinity” targeting program. The company will stop allowing advertisers to target ads for offers of housing, employment, or credit using the ethnic affinity marketing categories. It will also update its Advertising Policies to be more explicit about advertisers’ legal obligations not to discriminate against those in protected classes.

This news demonstrates the value of dialogue and the power of technology to improve the world we live in.

Civil rights leaders in government and civil society have expressed concern about the potential for “Ethnic Affinity” marketing to enable violations of discrimination law. CDT proposed a number of solutions in a blog post earlier this week, and we are pleased that Facebook took action to implement some of our suggestions. These changes will improve Facebook’s platform and protect its users from the worst types of discriminatory advertising. We’ll continue to work with Facebook to increase transparency and further protect users from discriminatory ads that do not fall under the umbrella of civil rights laws.

This news also demonstrates the value of dialogue and the power of technology to improve the world we live in. Technology companies like Facebook host millions of people every day, and the design of their platforms can determine the opportunities provided to people. Journalists, government leaders, and civil society all play a part in questioning how technology influences opportunity, and this was a great example of how we can work together to help companies do better. Changes like those Facebook announced this morning have an immediate impact on the dignity of all users by promoting respect and helping to enforce the expectations of fairness established in civil rights laws. CDT will continue to work with companies and all stakeholders to promote inclusion and diversity through innovative solutions that embed human rights into technology and ensure that legal protections extend to digital environments.

To learn more about Facebook’s “Ethnic Affinity” program and our recommendations to fix it, please see our blog post describing how the categorization works and our analysis of possible solutions.

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