Facebook bans over 5,000 ad targeting terms

Facebook has removed over 5,000 targeting options in a bid to prevent misuse of its ad targeting platform. The move also looks to limit the ability for advertisers to exclude audiences relating to attributes such as ethnicity or religion, a blog post read. According to AFP, this includes terms such as "Passover", "Islam", "Buddhism" or Native American culture. Marketing has reached out to Facebook for the list of terms.

Following the move, a new certification will roll out gradually to all US advertisers via the Ads Manager tool. Advertisers will need to complete the certification to continue advertising on the platform. The new measures will also expand to other advertiser tools and APIs and other markets over time.

The new measures come on the heels of a recent complaint filed by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which claimed Facebook had helped landlords and home sellers violate the Fair Housing Act. This was because the platform’s ad setting had allowed sellers to target specific demographics, which bars individuals of a certain race, religion, sex, national origin and other categories, TechCrunch reported.

The new measures also come around a year after Facebook required advertisers it identified to have offered housing, employment, or credit ads to certify compliance with its non-discrimination policy. This was following flak it copped in September for allowing ads to be targeted at users posting racist comments or hate speech in their profiles.

Facebook also promised it would change how ads would be targeted. COO Sheryl Sandberg expressed that she was disgusted by the offensive sentiments or language used, as well as “disappointed that [Facebook’s] systems allowed this.”

In 2016, Facebook also reportedly allowed its advertisers to exclude users based on their ethnicity while posting their ads. The news came after ProPublica, a non-profit investigative journalism group reported on what it has tested on the system that it said, not only allows advertisers to target users by their interests or background, but also shows an option to exclude a specific group called “Ethnic Affinity” for housing and employment ads.