Facebook building new tool to block ads from excluding users by race

Facebook building new tool to block ads from excluding users by race
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Facebook is building a new tool to keep users from excluding certain racial groups from their advertising, the social media giant announced Friday.
 
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Facebook Senior Vice President of U.S. Public Policy Erin Egan wrote in a blog post that the company is acting on lawmaker concerns that ad tools could be misused to discriminate against racial groups.
 
The new tools — which Facebook says it will start building immediately — will “detect and disallow the use of ethnic affinity marketing for certain types of ads” and “offer more clarification and education” into Facebook’s terms of use which prohibit discrimination, Egan said.
 
ProPublica last month reported that Facebook advertisers could use the social media company’s targeted advertising to potentially exclude certain races from viewing a housing ad — something that is illegal under the The Fair Housing Act of 1968.
 
The Facebook tool prompted users creating a housing ad excluding “racial affinities,” like African-American, Asian-American or Hispanic.
 
Facebook says these groups do not necessarily comprise people of the race listed but are made up “of clusters, or segments, of people formed by their activities on Facebook” to “help advertisers reach people who have demonstrated an interest in a certain ethnic group.”
 
Lawmakers from the Congressional Black Caucus wrote a letter to Facebook voicing their concerns over the ad tools earlier this month.
 
Egan said Facebook met with New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) of the Congressional Black Caucus and Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to discuss the matter. 
 
“Congresswoman Kelly is pleased with Facebook addressing the ethnic affinity concerns swiftly and appropriately,” said Kelly spokesperson Brandon Webb.
 
“Facebook has policies that strongly prohibit discrimination. However the Congresswoman wanted to work with them to find better ways of improving enforcement of these longstanding anti-discrimination policies.”