Facebook Combats Discrimination in Advertising
Facebook has recently settled a number of lawsuits with organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union and National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), among others. This week, however, the social media giant faced new criticisms, leading them to update their advertising policies further. The New York Times recently published an article detailing complaints accusing Facebook of allowing advertisers to serve ads to audiences based on race, gender, income, and age biases. Many of these ads were related to topics that expressly prohibit discrimination.
Facebook has taken a proactive stance on the matter by updating their advertising platform, Facebook Business Manager, to remove the ability for advertisers to target specific race, gender, and age groups for ads related to housing, employment opportunities, and credit. Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, stated that this settlement should ensure any type of discriminatory practice cannot happen.
Facebook’s Global Marketing Solutions team has issued a statement to all agencies listing the immediate steps being taken to address any advertising issues that might be even remotely considered discriminatory. As a result, many types of ads will soon have a much smaller set of targeting options. In addition, lookalike audiences will become a thing of the past. These changes will fully take effect by the end of the year. Certifications and educational materials will be made available to advertisers on an ongoing basis regarding Facebook’s change in policies.
One factor The New York Times recognizes – as do many in the advertising and marketing fields – is that Facebook isn’t necessarily discriminating because of race, religion, gender, income level, age, or any other criteria. Facebook Business Manager is selective of who will see a particular ad based on how relevant it is to the user. A brand selling expensive jewelry, for instance, will display ads to social media users who earn a higher income and have likely visited related websites. Ultimately, it comes down to relevance, rather than personal discrimination.
Can some existing and effective methods of finding the right audience for the right brand be modified without the risk of being considered discriminatory? Or will all of these models be removed, leaving marketers and advertisers no other options but to reinvent the wheel when it comes to social media advertising? Time will tell.
EGC will stay up-to-date on the changes Facebook undergoes in its advertising policies, and keep its customers informed of what is happening.