Facebook execs responded this week to accusations that they’re skirting anti-discrimination laws by allowing advertisers to target users by their ethnicity.
The social media company’s “ethnic affinity” marketing tools help marketers “to reach multicultural audiences with more relevant advertising, according to a blog post from Erin Egan, Facebook’s chief privacy officer.
Facebook will not permit marketers who plan to advertise housing, credit or employment to use the ethnic affinity tool.
Facebook’s response comes in the wake of a report from Pro Publica, which revealed that the tool actually allowed them to create an ad for an event and exclude black, Hispanic and other “ethnic affinities” from seeing the ad.
John Relman, a civil rights lawyer, told Pro Publica:
This is horrifying. This is massively illegal. This is about as blatant a violation of the federal Fair Housing Act as one can find.
Facebook says it’s taking action to prevent this type of discrimination moving forward. Specifically, the company is building tools that “detect and automatically disable the use of ethnic affinity marketing for certain types of ads,’ Egan posted.
Moving forward, execs will provide “more clarification and education” about using the ethnic affinity tools.
On the content side of things, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg has promised to take action to prevent fake news stories from passing as real news on the site.
Zuckerberg assured users that 99 percent of content shared on Facebook is authentic.
In a Facebook post he added:
We have already launched work enabling our community to flag hoaxes and fake news, and there is more we can do here. We have made progress, and we will continue to work on this to improve further.
Still, Zuckerberg warned that the company “must be extremely cautious about becoming arbiters of truth ourselves.”