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Changes to Facebook's Ads and Marketing API Aim to Prevent Discriminatory Practices

 

You may have come across a few friends who have taken to Facebook to sell their homemade baked goods on their personal profile. What you - and they - might not know is that Facebook has a separate section of their website that caters specifically to the sale of products and services. Facebook Marketplace was launched on October 3, 2016 as a way for people to buy or sell items within their area. So if you're looking to buy used furniture online, you're bound to find one on Marketplace whether you're in Scranton, Pennsylvania or in Oahu, Hawaii.

In a similar fashion, Facebook also lets businesses run ads on their site to increase their ability to reach potential customers. Millions of users are active on Facebook on a daily basis. Through targeted ads, Facebook allows businesses to market their products or services to specific users based on certain characteristics like location, interests, or educational background. For example, if you're looking for a web developer who lives within 10 miles of your business, a search will show you people who match your description in that specific area. Clearly, having Facebook as a recruitment tool can help you find the people you need much faster.

Using Facebook Marketplace and Facebook ads allows companies to create more successful local marketing strategies. This is especially true in rural areas that are slowly being modernized through the influx of large-scale tech operations, an example of which is Bentonville, Arkansas.

Walmart's installation of their headquarters in the area is creating a need for more jobs, one of which may be social media management. This, of course, will require someone who knows the area and is well-versed in Bentonville Facebook marketing opportunities.

This is just an example of how Facebook tools are being used. Facebook Marketplace and Ads are very nifty for advertisers and companies looking to take advantage of the number of people who use Facebook on a daily basis. While this allows businesses to reduce costs for marketing on Facebook, it also presents some loopholes.

Facebook's ad targeting options allow businesses to not only target users based on location or interests, but they also give businesses the option to show ads to specific groups. Touted as "Ethnic Affinities", Facebook ads can exclude people who match the ethnic affinity of African American, Asian American, or Hispanic, among others.

Under the Fair Housing Act of 1968, targeting housing ads to only specific demographics such as race and other sensitive factors is illegal. So let's say you were looking for a house in Bentonville and belonged to an ethnic minority group. With this feature made available to housing advertisers, you would be seeing a different number of options than someone who does not have the same ethnic affinity that you do.

Thankfully, Facebook has since taken notice of this loophole. On March 19, 2019 Facebook said that they have made revisions to their ad policy, effectively removing age, gender, and ZIP code targeting for ads related to housing, employment or credit offers. On top of that, advertisers who run ads related to housing, employment or credit opportunities will no longer be able to use what Facebook calls multicultural affinity targeting.

The changes Facebook has made to its Ads Manager are also being rolled out to its Marketing API. The changes will now prevent marketers from releasing ad campaigns that can be deemed discriminatory.

Non-compliance to the Special Ad Categories Facebook has added will mean their ads will be paused and no users will be able to see them.

While Facebook's attempts to provide advertisers better access to other cultures and ethnicities as a potential customer base may have backfired, the latest changes that the social network has made to prevent discriminatory practices is just a few of the action plans they have lined up, with additional rollouts to be made within the first half of 2020.

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Image source: pixabay.com

Published Monday, October 07, 2019 7:19 AM by David Marshall
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