Facebook Makes Changes Following Disability-Related Discrimination Complaint
Just days after facing allegations of allowing advertisers to discriminate against people with disabilities and other groups, Facebook says it is taking steps to prevent such activity.
The social networking giant said it will remove more than 5,000 categories from the options advertisers can select to target in an effort to “prevent misuse.”
“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 in a posting announcing the changes.
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The move follows a formal complaint from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development alleging that Facebook “unlawfully discriminates by enabling advertisers to restrict which Facebook users receive housing-related ads.”
The complaint indicated that the company’s advertising platform allows landlords and home sellers to choose not to show ads to those with interests in categories like “assistance dog,” “mobility scooter,” “accessibility” and “deaf culture.” It also cited categories that housing providers could use to limit who saw their ads based on sex, race, color, religion, national origin, zip code and whether users have children or have kids of certain ages.
HUD said that the opportunity to exclude users based on such interests amounted to violations of the Fair Housing Act, which bars discrimination in housing transactions, including advertising.
Facebook said its decision to remove thousands of categories was not in direct response to the HUD action, but rather the result of a long-running review of targeting options. The company declined to detail exactly which categories will be removed, but said that disability-related discrimination concerns were part of the review.
Beyond removing categories that could be used to wrongly exclude audiences, Facebook also said it will start requiring all advertisers to certify that they comply with the company’s non-discrimination policy in the coming weeks. Previously, the agreement was only necessary to run housing, employment or credit ads on the platform.
“Ads are discriminatory when they deny opportunities to individuals or groups of people based on certain personal attributes such as race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, family/marital status, disability or medical or genetic condition,” the policy states.