To ensure that advertisers do not use Facebook tools in a discriminatory way, company COO Sheryl Sandberg said that the social media giant would take a closer look at its advertising policies. In light of a ProPublica investigation and pressure from the Congressional Black Caucus, Sandberg announced the decision in a letter to CBC Chairperson Cedric Richmond. The move comes after following the criticism of Facebook that is under fire for its practices and policies that enable advertisers to exclude “multicultural affinity” groups from the audiences they reach via the social network, Tech Crunch reported. Under the new development, until Facebook figures out how to ensure advertisers do not use its tools in a discriminatory way, it will temporarily disable the option that lets advertisers exclude multicultural affinity groups from their audience. “Multicultural affinity groups are made up of people whose activities on Facebook suggest they may be interested in ads related to the African American, Hispanic American, or Asian American communities,” she wrote in the letter. She said there are also concerns that advertisers use Facebook to discriminate against people in the areas of housing, employment and credit loans. “By allowing online advertisers to promote or market a community or home for the purpose of sale to select an ‘ethnic affinity’ as part of their advertising campaign, Facebook is complicit in promoting restrictive housing practices,” the members of the CBC had said last year.
Facebook said it also will take a look at how advertisers are using exclusion targeting across other “sensitive segments”, like ones that relate to members of the LGBTQ community and people with disabilities. In September, reports surfaced that the social media giant enabled advertisers to reach “Jew haters” — to which Sandberg, who also of Jewish origin, had apologised, saying the company was now strengthening its ad policies. Facebook enabled the advertisers to direct their pitches to the news feeds of almost 2,300 people who expressed interest in the topics of “Jew hater”, “How to burn Jews” or “History of why Jews ruin the world”, a ProPublica investigation revealed. At that time, Facebook temporarily disabled some of its ads tools following news reports that slurs or other offensive language could be used as targeting criteria for advertising.