On Tuesday, Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, made a statement that they plan to limit advertiser’s ability to target users on the basis of some sensitive categories. From next year, Meta will start to remove thousands of “Detailed Targeting” keywords which are used to target ads to specific users in various catering such as health, race or ethnicity, political affiliation, religion and sexual orientation.
The company’s massive digital ad business has long relied on targeted advertising. However, Facebook has been chastised for allowing highly specific targeting, which could allow advertisers to target users with racist ads based on their activity on its platforms. Several lawsuits alleging that Facebook’s advertising platform allowed discrimination in housing, employment, and credit ads were settled in 2019. It established a new portal for such ads as part of the settlement. Tuesday’s announcement is the company’s most comprehensive response to concerns about ad targeting to date.
Meta (FB) vice president of product marketing for ads Graham Mudd said in a blog post on Tuesday that the move is a good one “Difficult decision” made in order to “better match people’s evolving expectations of how advertisers may reach them on our platform and address feedback from civil rights experts, policymakers and other stakeholders on the importance of preventing advertisers from abusing the targeting options we make available.”
The announcement comes as Facebook is under fire for the real-world harms caused by its platforms, as revealed in the “Facebook Papers,” a trove of internal documents that provide unprecedented insight into some of the company’s most serious issues. Former employee-turned-whistleblower Frances Haugen provided the documents to lawmakers, and dozens of news organisations, including CNN, obtained them.
Last month, the company announced that it would change its name to Meta, coinciding with its scramble to contain the fallout from the Facebook Papers. It also announced last week that it will no longer use facial-recognition software that can recognise people in photos and videos on its Facebook app (although the company may still use such software in other products now and in the future).