Technology Facebook ramps up efforts to prevent discriminatory ad targeting

17:07  03 december  2019
17:07  03 december  2019 Source:   cnet.com

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Then Facebook approves and permits advertisers to publish these ads in a discriminatory manner without consumers ever knowing they have been Days after the HUD complaint, Facebook announced it was updating its ad - targeting tools and "removing over 5,000 targeting options to help

Facebook ’s targeted advertising system is the company’s secret sauce, but others such as Google and Twitter use similar tactics. But Facebook and its competitors should not have to be ordered to scale up their efforts to ensure no advertisers can use their platform for illegal discrimination .

Facebook said Tuesday it's expanding its efforts to prevent advertisers from discriminating against some groups, a move the social media giant hopes will fend off criticism its ad-targeting can be used to exclude minorities and older people, among others. The company also said it would include housing ads in a searchable public database on the social network.

a close up of a logo: Facebook wants users to report discriminatory housing ads. Graphic by Pixabay/Illustration by CNET© Provided by CBS Interactive Inc. Facebook wants users to report discriminatory housing ads. Graphic by Pixabay/Illustration by CNET

In March, Facebook said advertisers running housing, employment and credit ads would no longer be able to target users based on age, gender, ZIP code and other characteristics. Facebook started enforcing these rules within a tool called Ads Manager, which allows users to create and keep track of their ads.

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Discrimination hasn't Facebook 's only problem with ad targeting . In the past, it's taken fire for allowing advertisers to target groups of people identified "Today's changes mark an important step in our broader effort to prevent discrimination and promote fairness and inclusion on Facebook ," she

Facebook will overhaul its ad - targeting systems to prevent discrimination in housing , credit and employment ads as part of a legal settlement. For the social network, that's one major legal problem down, several to go, including government investigations in the U.S. and Europe over its data and

Starting Wednesday, Facebook will ramp up enforcement of these rules across all its ad buying tools on both the main social network and Instagram, its photo-sharing service. Facebook is also including housing ads in its Ad Library, a database that lets people search for ads about social issues, elections or politics on the social network. The new section will include US housing ads that started running or were edited on or after Wednesday.

a screenshot of a cell phone: Facebook's Ad Library will include a section for housing ads. Screenshot by Queenie Wong/CNET© Provided by CNET Facebook's Ad Library will include a section for housing ads. Screenshot by Queenie Wong/CNET

The changes could help Facebook identify discriminatory ads that evade the company's detection. The company relies on advertisers to certify whether they're placing a housing, employment or credit ad on Facebook. It also uses technology to detect when these types of ads are being created. Human reviewers check if the ads are being classified correctly and users can also report ads that violate its rules.

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After various investigations found that Facebook 's granular ad targeting options could be used in a discriminatory - and illegal - manner, Facebook has essentially been forced to Facebook updated its policies to prevent such usage in early 2017, but still, it was entirely possible for advertisers to

Facebook is planning to remove more than 5,000 ad targeting options in an effort to prevent discriminatory advertising . The bulk of the 5 Facebook ’s removal of the targeting options comes amid an investigation from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, which filed a

"The ad library is so important because it enables interested advocates, people, et cetera to look at all of our ads as they're live in our system and tell us whether we got it right or wrong," said Graham Mudd, vice president of product marketing for ads at Facebook.

Mudd said he expects there could eventually be hundreds of thousands of housing ads in the database after Facebook introduces the new section. Employment and credit ads will be included in the database over the next year, he said. Mudd didn't have an estimate of how many housing, employment or credit ads have been reported by users since March but said he didn't believe it was a "large number."

The steps build on a March settlement that Facebook reached with civil rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union. The social network faced several lawsuits alleging it allowed advertisers to discriminate against users by excluding people from seeing certain housing, employment and credit ads based on gender, age and location. As part of Facebook's agreement with the groups, the company restricted targeting for housing, credit and employment ads and said it would create a page to allow Facebook users to search for and view all current housing ads.

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Under the settlement, Facebook will take proactive steps to prevent advertisers from engaging in Create a separate portal for such ads with a much more limited set of targeting options so that We will continue our efforts to hold employers accountable for using Facebook ’s platform to discriminate .”

Follows November outcry over targeted FB ads ' possible violations of Fair Housing Act.

a close up of a logo: Facebook wants users to report discriminatory housing ads. © Graphic by Pixabay/Illustration by CNET

Facebook wants users to report discriminatory housing ads.

The ACLU didn't immediately provide a comment.

The settlement hasn't ended complaints about discriminatory ad targeting on Facebook. In late October, 54-year-old Neutah Opiotennione in Washington DC sued the company for allegedly denying her ads about financial services over the past three years because of her gender and age. The proposed class-action lawsuit included examples in which advertisers for loans, life insurance and other financial services targeted users by age and gender.

Mudd said Facebook is currently looking at the claims in the lawsuit and the company would "certainly take action" if they find any bias. While Facebook's current system isn't "perfect," Mudd called the added measures a "meaningful step forward."

"We'll continue to improve it and invest in other areas where we see potential harm from discrimination," he said.

Twitter allowed ads targeting neo-Nazis, other hate groups .
Ad tool made it possible for ads to be directed to users who searched for keywords such as "white supremacists" and "anti-gay," the BBC found.Twitter already has a policy that bars hateful conduct, including promoting violence or directly attacking people based on race, religion, sexual orientation and other characteristics. But the BBC reported Wednesday it discovered a flaw in the platform that made it possible for ads to be directed to users who posted about or searched for words such as "transphobic," "white supremacists" and "anti-gay.

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