Facebook is reportedly allowing its advertisers to exclude users based on their ethnicity while posting their ads.
The news comes after ProPublica, a non-profit investigative journalism group reported on what it has tested on the system that it said, not only allows advertisers to target users by their interests or background, but also shows an option to exclude a specific group called “Ethnic Affinity.” Races listed under the “Ethnic Affinity” group include African Americans, Asian Americans and Hispanic people.
To make the case clearer, ProPublica also took a screenshot of the dummy ad it purchased on Facebook’s housing categories via its advertising portal.
According to the report, the allegation is opposed to what the social media giant has always preached – that it allows advertisers to target specific group of users based on information provided by Facebook users.
ProPublica also went on to compare the case with the Fair Housing Act of 1968 which makes it illegal to “make, print, or publish, or cause to be made, printed, or published any notice, statement, or advertisement, with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.”
Steve Satterfield, privacy and public policy manager at Facebook told ProPublica that Facebook started to offer the “Ethnic Affinity” categories within the past two years as part of a “multicultural advertising” effort. He added that the “Ethnic Affinity” is not the same as race and the assignment of a person into this category is based on pages and posts liked or engaged with on Facebook.
Furthermore, he added it’s a common practice and essential for advertisers to have the ability to both include and exclude some ethic groups while testing how their marketing performs. For example, an advertiser can test the performance of a campaign in English that excludes the Hispanic group and compare against one that runs in Spanish.
ProPublica said it recently offered a tool allowing users to see how Facebook is categorising them and found nearly 50,000 unique categories in which Facebook places its users.