Facebook rolls out new tools to fight discriminatory ads

By Mashable

Facebook is taking more steps to address accusations that it enables advertisers to illegally discriminate by race.

The social network announced Tuesday that it would begin using its artificial intelligence tools to identify ads for housing, credit and jobs, then shut them down if they are targeted by “ethnic affinity” — essentially Facebook’s proxy for race.

When Facebook recognizes that an advertiser is attempting to buy an ad in any of those categories, a window will now appear asking the buyer to confirm that they are following the company’s discrimination rules.

Facebook is also tightening the language of its ad policy to make clear that advertisers should never discriminate around any of a number of personal attributes, including disability, gender identity and genetic condition.

“We heard concerns that discriminatory advertising can wrongfully deprive people of opportunities and experiences, particularly in the areas of housing, employment and credit, where certain groups historically have faced discrimination,” a spokesperson wrote in a blog post announcing the changes Wednesday.

Facebook’s ad discrimination problem first came to light with a ProPublica investigation last fall alleging that the platform enabled advertising that would be illegal under federal civil rights laws.

The company countered that its “ethnic affinity” tag — which groups users by their interest in a certain race — was different than actually identifying users by ethnicity.

Nevertheless, the company made some bare-minimum changes to its policy the following week and announced that it would look into more tools to address the problem. Facebook claims its solution was shaped by discussions with “policymakers and civil rights leaders” it has since had.


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