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Facebook cuts thousands of ad targeting options after HUDÕ housing discrimination allegation

Will also require advertisers to agree to non-discrimination policy

In the wake of being accused of allowing landlords and homeowners to discriminate against prospective renters and buyers, Facebook is making changes to its advertising policies to remove thousands of targeting options that may have been used to engage in discriminatory advertising.

Late last week, the Department of Housing and Urban Development filed a complaint against Facebook, claiming that the social media giant’s advertising platform enabled property owners to discriminate against prospective renters and buyers based on their race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, disability, or other factors.

Facebook, for its part, responded to HUD’s allegations by stating that “there is no place for discrimination” on its platform and said that it planned to both respond in court and continue working with HUD to address its concerns.

But the company is doing more than that.

Facebook announced this week that it is removing more than 5,000 ad target options to “help prevent misuse.” And that’s not all. The company also announced that all U.S. advertisers will be required to comply with the company’s non-discrimination policy in order to advertise on Facebook.

“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 said of the removed ad target options.

According to Facebook, the removed options include “limiting the ability for advertisers to exclude audiences that relate to attributes such as ethnicity or religion.”

But Digiday reported that advertisers may still be able to find their way around these new limitations.

From Digiday:

A Facebook spokesperson told Digiday the majority of the targeting options being removed are exclusions, which allow advertisers to select certain audiences they do not want seeing their ads. Advertisers will no longer be able to include terms including “Passover,” “Evangelicalism,” “Native American culture,” “Islamic culture” and “Buddhism,” Facebook said.

Jesse Math, group director of paid social and display at PMX Agency said that if an advertiser was trying to exclude Hispanic audiences using the term “Hispanic” — one of the terms that Facebook likely cut — an advertiser could use common interests instead such as “Telemundo interest” or specific Hispanic artists that are less known by other communities.

If that ends up being the case, Facebook would likely utilize its non-discrimination policy to punish the offending advertiser.

As stated above, the site will soon require all advertisers to comply with its non-discrimination policy. Previously, only advertisers the site identified as offering housing, employment or credit ads were required to certify their compliance with the site’s non-discrimination policy.

“In the coming weeks, this new certification will roll out gradually to all U.S. advertisers via our Ads Manager tool,” Facebook said in its post announcing the changes. “Advertisers will be required to complete this certification in order to continue advertising on Facebook. We’ve designed this education in consultation with outside experts to underscore the difference between acceptable ad targeting and ad discrimination.

Facebook’s post also said that the site will continue to share more targeting updates over the next few months as it works to “refine” its advertising tools.

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