Facebook is creating a new advertising portal for housing, employment and credit advertisers and will remove 'hundreds' of targeting options

GettyFacebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
  • Facebook has faced backlash from civil rights groups like the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that its platform allows advertisers to discriminate against groups through targeting.
  • Facebook is rolling out new rules limiting the targeting parameters that housing, employment and credit advertisers can apply to campaigns.
  • The company is also rolling out a transparency tool specifically for employment, credit and housing advertisers, similar to ones it has for political and brand advertisers.

Facebook is taking steps to clean up its platform for housing, employment and credit advertisers and civil rights groups who have asked for targeting controls.

The social network says that it has reached a settlement with the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and others after the groups pushed Facebook to tighten up its ad practices.

The NFHA and ACLU filed a “statement of interest” against Facebook last year for “unlawful” ad practices last year. As part of the settlement, Facebook said that it will pay the organisations just under $US5 million.

In a statement, Facebook said that it had not seen examples of discriminatory targeting that civil rights groups cited but that it was “making changes to further prevent even the possibility of discrimination, beyond what the law requires.” Facebook said that it worked with civic rights law firm Relman, Dane & Colfax to review its ads tools.

“Today’s changes mark an important step in our broader effort to prevent discrimination and promote fairness and inclusion on Facebook,” Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg said in a statement. “But our work is far from over. We’re committed to doing more, and we look forward to engaging in serious consultation and work with key civil rights groups, experts, and policymakers to help us find the right path forward.”

Making employment ads more transparent

The company is also making changes to its ad platform. It’s building a separate advertising portal for housing, employment and credit advertisers to use in buying Facebook, Instagram and Messenger ads that will create campaigns with specific guidelines.

Those specific guidelines mean removing the ability for housing, employment and credit advertisers to target US ads by age, gender or ZIP code. Civil rights groups have said that such targeting could be used to discriminate specific groups.

Facebook said that it plans to cut the number of audience targets that housing, employment and credit advertisers can use from “many thousands to a few hundred.” Advertisers can continue to use audience targets like “real estate,” “apartments,” “credit card,” “employment agency,” and “renting.” For location-based audiences, advertisers must set up campaigns with a 15-mile radius from the center of a city.

The company will also build a transparency tool for housing ads that will allow people to see all of an advertiser’s campaigns that run on Facebook. Facebook has similar tools for political advertisements.

Facebook did not give an exact date on when the changes will roll out but said that it will happen this year.

The NFHA said it would work with Facebook to develop a training program for Facebook employees on fair housing and lending laws. The NFHA also said that Facebook will provide a $US500,000 advertising credit to the fair housing organisations to run ads that promote fair housing.

“Facebook will undertake far-reaching changes and steps that will prevent discrimination in housing, employment, and credit advertising on Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger demonstrating significant progress and a commitment to advancing civil rights,” the NFHA wrote in a statement. “The parties have agreed to work together as changes are implemented to ensure consumers are treated fairly and have access to ads promoting services and amenities that people need to thrive.”

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