Facebook is letting advertisers target or, more precisely, exclude demographics by race, according to ProPublica.
The news site purchased a housing ad and found that under the "Narrow Audience" heading in the "Ethnic Affinity" category, it could exclude groups like African-Americans and Hispanics from ever seeing it.
Since this is entirely illegal under the federal Fair Housing Act, ProPublica reached out to Facebook, which maintained the company has no tolerance for discrimination. Facebook's privacy and public policy manager Steve Satterfield told ProPublica that “Ethnic Affinity” is not the same as race, and is instead based on pages and posts people have engaged with.
However, Facebook declined to address why ProPublica's ad excluding minorities was approved within 15 minutes of placing the order.
Read more at ProPublica.
Update 10/28 1:17pm CT: Facebook sent the Daily Dot the following statement regarding its "exclusion targeting" practices: "Marketers use this type of targeting to assess whether ads resonate more with certain audiences vs. others. For example, some audiences might click on Spanish-language ads for a World Cup sponsorship vs. other audiences might click more on the same ads in English, so the sponsor might run one campaign in English that excludes the Hispanic affinity group to see how well the campaign performs against running that ad campaign in Spanish. This is a common practice in the industry. We expressly prohibit discrimination and take prompt enforcement action when we determine that ads violate our policies."
Facebook's head of multicultural, Christian Martinez, has also responded to the ProPublica story.