Facebook to stop ads from targeting users by race

In response to a public concern that Facebook was violating anti-discrimination laws with its tool, "ethnic affinities", the social media giant announced last Friday that it will no longer allow advertisers to exclude specific racial and ethnic groups when placing ads related to housing, credit or employment.

The tool previously let advertisers target and exclude certain groups of Facebook users when placing ads for a new apartment or a house for sale, but it has been under fire after a Pro Publica report pointed out last month that the tool was in potential violation of federal anti-discrimination housing laws. In the report, Pro Publica said it successfully placed an ad for a housing-related event that excluded African Americans, Asian Americans, and Hispanics.

"There are many nondiscriminatory uses of our ethnic affinity solution in these areas, but we have decided that we can best guard against discrimination by suspending these types of ads," Erin Egan, Facebook’s chief privacy officer, said in a blog post on Friday.

"We are going to turn off, actually prohibit, the use of ethnic affinity marketing for ads that we identify as offering housing, employment and credit," she said.

Egan added that Facebook will also require advertisers to affirm that they will not place discriminatory ads on Facebook and will offer educational materials to help advertisers understand their obligations.