Facebook to Remove Over 5,000 Ad Targeting Options

Facebook announced plans to remove over 5,000 ad targeting options in an effort to prevent discriminatory advertising practices.

The company says minimizing the risk of abuse is more important than continuing to offer these otherwise legitimate ways to reach customers.

The news comes shortly after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) filed a new complaint against Facebook that accuses it of helping landlords and home sellers violate the Fair Housing Act. It says that Facebook’s ad settings disregard the law by allowing advertisers to target certain demographics.

“When Facebook uses the vast amount of personal data it collects to help advertisers to discriminate, it’s the same as slamming the door in someone’s face,” Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, Anna María Farías had said in a statement issued by the department.

Facebook responded by saying this practice was prohibited in its advertising policies and that it would continue to work with HUD to address its complaints.

Facebook did not offer a complete list of targeting options it’s removing, other than to say it’s taking away the ability to exclude audiences by attributes such as ethnicity or religion.

While there are acceptable ways in which advertisers could use such targeting options, other ways of using them can violate Facebook’s policies.

For example, landlords cannot exclude audiences by ethnicity or religion when advertising apartments, which is something Facebook was under fire for earlier this year.

Removing problematic targeting options altogether is one way Facebook can ensure they won’t be misused.

“While these options have been used in legitimate ways to reach people interested in a certain product or service, we think minimizing the risk of abuse is more important,” the company explained in a blog post. Facebook didn’t provide a list of the options being removed, but noted they related to attributes such as religion and ethnicity.

It also said that it would roll out a new certification to U.S. advertisers through its Ads Manager tool, that will require the advertisers to properly register their compliance with Facebook’s non-discrimination policy if they post housing, employment or credit ads. The advertisers will need to complete the certification, which involves being educated on the policy and agreeing to it through a form.

Facebook says this certification will reach other countries in time, and will become available through its other tools and APIs.

How the Facebook Ad Targeting Changes Will Affect Your Strategy?

Facebook is still a powerful tool for connecting advertisers to relevant audiences. It will continue to serve advertisers to its best ability, and most remain cautiously optimistic going forward.

It’s also too soon to know for sure what the lasting effects of the targeting changes will be. A lot of it will rely on Facebook users and their willingness to stick with the platform and consent to be show targeting ads.

So for now, make adjustments as necessary. But don’t abandon ship. Facebook is still a major player in the marketing game, and I expect it still has a few surprises for advertisers up its sleeve.
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