Facebook Finalizes Prohibition of Ethnic Affinity Marketing

Facebook announced on Wednesday that it has finalized its prohibition of the use of ethnic affinity marketing that enables ad buyers to exclude racial minorities from ads offering housing, employment, or credit. Facebook will also require advertisers to affirm that they will not engage in discriminatory advertising on its platform.

“We ‘like’ Facebook for following up on its commitment to combatting discriminatory targeting in online advertisements. Our nation’s nondiscrimination laws apply in both the real and virtual worlds, and we applaud Facebook for working with the civil rights community to reach today’s announcement,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference. “Facebook’s actions today are bold – they not only strengthened their advertising policies, but they are committed to working to educate new advertisers and have put in place robust enforcement rules. We hope other companies will review their own policies and follow Facebook’s example. Online companies must have strong safeguards against discriminatory ad targeting based on gender, sexual orientation, religion, and other protected characteristics.”

This prohibition follows on a commitment made by Facebook last November after a ProPublica investigation in October 2016 uncovered what civil rights lawyer John Relman called “about as blatant a violation of the federal Fair Housing Act as one can find.”

In response, Facebook issued a statement to acknowledge the issue and announced ways it planned to address it.

“Recently, policymakers and civil rights leaders have expressed concerns that advertisers could misuse some aspects of our affinity marketing segments. Specifically, they’ve raised the possibility that some advertisers might use these segments to run ads that discriminate against people, particularly in areas where certain groups have historically faced discrimination – housing, employment and the extension of credit,” Facebook’s statement said. “We take these issues seriously. Discriminatory advertising has no place on Facebook.”

Wednesday’s announcement was a welcome follow-up to that statement and suggests Facebook is seriously committed to eliminating discriminatory advertising across its platform.