Facebook to Remove ‘Ethnic Affinity’ Targeting From Certain Ad Categories

By Erik Oster 

This morning Facebook released a statement outlining changes to its “ethnic affinity” ad-targeting.

Last month, the social media giant came under fire when ProPublica published a report outlining its use of “ethnic affinity” categories in its ad-targeting. Facebook defended the practice, insisting its ad policies strictly prohibit discriminatory use of such targeting, but on Monday we learned that a U.S. District Court lawsuit was filed in the Northern District of California, alleging that they violate The Fair Housing Act of 1968 and The Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In today’s statement Facebook addressed these concerns and described several changes it would make to prevent discriminatory advertising. It does not appear that Facebook will be getting rid of the “ethnic affinity” category for its ad-targeting, but rather installing additional safeguards to ensure it isn’t used in any way deemed discriminatory. Among these changes, Facebook vowed to “Build tools to detect and automatically disable the use of ethnic affinity marketing for certain types of ads,” blocking the use of “ethnic affinity” targeting for ads related to housing, employment and credit. Facebook also stated it would update its Advertising Policies to “be even more explicit and require advertisers to affirm that they will not engage in discriminatory advertising on Facebook.”


“We are grateful for the partnership of a number groups who have engaged in a constructive dialogue with us about these issues, including the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the National Fair Housing Alliance, the Center for Democracy & Technology, the Brookings Institution, and Upturn,” Facebook vice president, U.S. public policy and chief privacy officer Erin Egan wrote in the statement.

She concluded by stating, “We are making these changes to deter discrimination and strengthen our ability to enforce our policies. We look forward to finding additional ways to combat discrimination, while increasing opportunity, and to continuing our dialogue with policymakers and civil rights leaders about these important issues.”