Facebook halts function that allows advertisers to exclude by race

Facebook halts function that allows advertisers to exclude by race
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Facebook announced on Wednesday that it would no longer allow advertisers to exclude “multicultural affinity groups” — its term for groups that include various ethnic and racial communities. 

Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg also directly addressed the Congressional Black Caucus’s concerns about the treatment of minorities on its platform and in its corporate ranks.

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Facebook had came under fire over a feature that allowed advertisers on its platform to exclude some ethnic groups, like African-Americans, from being able to see their housing ads, potentially in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

Facebook had previously agreed to no longer allow advertisers to do this, but its vice president of ads growth, Rob Goldman, admitted this week that its initial solutions “were not as comprehensive as they should have been.”

Goldman said that Facebook would completely turn off its ability to exclude “multicultural affinity groups until it completes a review of the feature.

“Ads targeting or excluding potentially sensitive segments are subject to expanded review before they appear on Facebook,” he said in statement.

Rep. Robin KellyRobin Lynne KellyLawmakers mourn death of 'Julia' star Diahann Carroll Jonathan Van Ness meets with Nancy Pelosi to discuss the Equality Act Democrats rally behind incumbents as Lipinski takes liberal fire MORE (D-Ill.) said Facebook’s decision to disable the function was “appropriate,” but noted her frustration with the pace at which the social media firm acted.

“When I first raised this issue with Facebook, I was disappointed,” Kelly said in a statement. “When it became necessary to raise the issue again, I was irritated.”

“I will continue watching this issue very closely to ensure these issues do not raise again," she added.

The social media firm has taken more general criticism over the past year, particularly from black lawmakers, over its treatment of matters regarding race and the lack of diversity at its company. The company has drawn ire for allowing advertisers to discriminate against minority groups in its ad targeting and how Russian actors used ads exploiting racial tensions in the U.S. during the 2016 election.

“We know that African Americans have been the victims of divisive and abusive content online and we appreciate the leadership the CBC has shown in speaking out in defense of democratic values and in favor of more diversity in technology,” Sandberg wrote in a letter sent to CBC Chairman Rep. Cedric RichmondCedric Levon RichmondTwo former Congressional Black Caucus chairmen back Biden Election security funds caught in crosshairs of spending debate Lawmakers weigh responses to rash of ransomware attacks MORE (D-La.) on Wednesday.

Sandberg touched on many of the CBC’s concerns in her lengthy 12-page letter to Richmond, but offered no new solutions. Instead she rehashed announcements that Facebook has already made and pointed towards existing policies that the company has in place to prevent discrimination on its platform.

The Facebook COO sat down with the caucus in October to hear their concerns directly. Members voiced their frustrations to Sandberg directly and according to lawmakers in attendance, she committed to appointing an African-American to Facebook’s board in the foreseeable future.