Facebook takes steps to protect you from discriminatory ads

Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg. 

James Martin/Techhnews

Facebook is making changes to a range of ads on the social network in an effort to protect its users from discrimination. 

Advertisers that run housing, employment and credit ads will no longer be able to target users based on age, gender or ZIP code, and will also have a fewer options when it comes to targeting users, Facebook said Tuesday. The company also said it’s building a tool so users can search for housing ads throughout the US. 

“Housing, employment and credit ads are crucial to helping people buy new homes, start great careers, and gain access to credit,” said Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg in a blog post. “They should never be used to exclude or harm people.”

The changes are part of a settlement that Facebook reached with civil rights groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed lawsuits against the social network alleging that Facebook allowed advertisers to discriminate against users by excluding people from seeing certain housing, employment and credit ads based on gender, age and where they lived. 

Civil rights groups, labor organizations, workers and consumers filed five discrimination lawsuits against Facebook between 2016 and 2018, according to the settlement posted by the ACLU. In 2016, Facebook pulled a tool that allowed advertisers to exclude users from seeing housing, employment and credit ads based on their “ethnic affinity.”

“As the internet — and platforms like Facebook — play an increasing role in connecting us all to information related to economic opportunities, it’s crucial that micro-targeting not be used to exclude groups that already face discrimination,” said Galen Sherwin, senior staff attorney at the ACLU, in a statement. “We are pleased Facebook has agreed to take meaningful steps to ensure that discriminatory advertising practices are not given new life in the digital era, and we expect other tech companies to follow Facebook’s lead.”

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