Facebook to remove over 5K ad target options to curb discrimination

Facebook to remove over 5K ad target options to curb discrimination
© Greg Nash

Facebook announced on Tuesday that it’s removing more than 5,000 ad targeting options in an effort to reduce the potential for discrimination on its platform.

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In the fall, after the options are removed, advertisers will no longer be able to exclude certain religions and races in their targeted ads on Facebook.

“We're committed to protecting people from discriminatory advertising on our platforms. That's why we're removing over 5,000 targeting options to help prevent misuse,” the company wrote in a blog post announcing the decision.

The Menlo Park, Calif.-based company defended the exclusion options as having been used in “legitimate ways to reach people,” but said that it now believes “minimizing the risk of abuse is more important.”

Facebook’s move comes days after the Department of Housing and Urban Development filed a complaint against the social media company, accusing it of being in violation of the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

“When Facebook uses the vast amount of personal data it collects to help advertisers to discriminate, it’s the same as slamming the door in someone’s face,” Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Anna María Farías had said in a statement.

Facebook had previously fielded criticism on this from lawmakers who were frustrated that advertisers could exclude racial minorities from housing advertisements.

This past fall, Democratic Reps. Robin KellyRobin Lynne KellyThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump retreats on census citizenship question CBC lawmakers rip Justice Democrats for targeting black lawmakers for primaries Senate panel advances bill to protect government devices against cyber threats MORE (Ill.), G.K. ButterfieldGeorge (G.K.) Kenneth ButterfieldHow Trump suddenly brought Democrats together on a resolution condemning him House votes against striking Pelosi remarks from record GOP demands that Pelosi remarks be removed from record MORE (N.C.), Yvette ClarkeYvette Diane ClarkeThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump retreats on census citizenship question CBC lawmakers rip Justice Democrats for targeting black lawmakers for primaries The Hill's Morning Report - Democratic debates: Miami nice or spice? MORE (N.Y.) and Emanuel Cleaver (Mo.) penned a letter to Facebook urging it to drop the exclusion and Congressional Black Caucus members pressed the matter during a meeting in October with Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg.