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Facebook Finally Deactivates Ethnicity-Targeting Advert System

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Facebook has disabled the system that lets advertisers choose the ethnic group that can view their ads.

With everything going digital, Facebook remains the most used social media. Although Facebook was created with the sole purpose to connect with people and make the world closer, the platform allows for targeted ad placement, and many business owners have used the platform to their advantage. Facebook provides the ideal platform to extensively reach your targeted audience via a selection of age preference and locality.

However, just like different terrorist groups have taken advantage of the social media and instant messaging apps to promote hate speeches and other forms of extremist materials. News organisation ProPublica discovered that users could abuse the system by placing discriminatory targeted ads on the platform. This is another way to promote propaganda or discriminate against certain ethnic or minority group.

Related: Facebook Refunds Money To Advertisers After Admitting Ads Measurement Errors For The 10th Time

The feature was designed to place targeted ads to enable users to enjoy the maximum potentials of using a Facebook advert to enable a certain ad to reach more audience. Even though a case of discrimination was yet to be reported, the News organisation discovered a possibility.

There’s no limit with the use of social networks. Here in Nigeria, there are pages that promote exclusive contents on Biafra and several other minority groups in the country.

Facebook said it will consider a way to adjust the system so that users do not use it inappropriately.

ProPublica, last week sponsored many rental housing ads and included restrictions in its setting, asking that the viewership is restricted to users that are African Americans, Latinas, Jews, and mothers of high school kids. All the ads were approved by Facebook within minutes. Meanwhile, the above-listed groups are protected under the Fair Housing Act, which makes it an offense to segregate preferences based on sex, status, religion, physical ability or nationality. Defaulters are liable to be heavily fined.

Facebook admitted its flaws but blamed the mishap on a technical issue. ‘This was a failure in our enforcement and we’re disappointed that we fell short of our commitments. The rental housing ads purchased by ProPublica should have but did not trigger the extra review and certifications we put in place due to a technical failure’, Ami Vora, Vice-President, Product Management, Facebook said in an emailed statement.

Facebook said further that it would devise a means to detect and block attempts to post discriminatory ads.

Today, Ms. Sheryl Sandberg, a Facebook boss disclosed that the tool that let advertisers select the ‘multicultural affinity segments’ such as race and colour had been deactivated. ‘Our systems continue to improve, but we can do better’, she continued.

So far, the discrimination-spotting system was able to spot millions of discriminatory ads before the tool was finally deactivated. 

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