Facebook signs an agreement with Washington state to ban discriminatory ads

Facebook can no longer block minorities or other groups from seeing advertisements, according to an agreement with the state of Washington

by exchange4media Staff
Published - Jul 25, 2018 3:35 PM Updated: Jul 25, 2018 3:35 PM

Facebook signed a new agreement with the state of Washington to ban discriminatory advertisements on its platform. Facebook is to modify its advertising platform so that third parties can't discriminate based on ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation, according to Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson. It has to make changes nationwide within 90 days, according to a statement from Ferguson's office.

The social media giant confirmed the agreement with the state, and said the announcement is part of a long process to ensure that tools used to target ads on the social network are safe, civil, and fair. Will Castleberry, Facebook’s Vice President of State and Local Policy said in an email statement, "Discriminatory advertising has no place on our platform, and we'll continue to improve our ad products so they're relevant, effective, and safe for everyone."

The Washington state probed Facebook's advertising practices after ProPublica published an article alleging advertisers could exclude users by race.

In March, Facebook was sued in Manhattan federal court by civil rights groups led by the National Fair Housing Alliance. They claimed the social-media giant's advertising platform allows landlords and real-estate brokers to exclude groups of people based on characteristics such as family status or sex from receiving ads about housing. Washington state made those and other claims in its case. Ferguson said state investigators created 20 fake ads on Facebook that excluded ethnic minorities from receiving advertising for nightclubs, restaurants, lending, insurance, employment and apartment rentals. "This meant that these ethnic groups would not be able to see the ads at all, and would therefore be unaware of the opportunities," according to the statement. The agreement concludes the 20-month investigation.

Facebook wasn't named as a defendant in a pending class-action suit by the Communications Workers of America union alleging that employers and employment agencies have used Facebook's tools to filter out older job hunters when seeking to fill positions. The companies sued include Amazon, T-Mobile and Cox Communications.

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