Facebook is making a big change in the way it displays ads

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Meta, the new parent company of Facebook, announced this week that it is changing some of the advertising practices on its social media platforms. The company said it would remove detailed targeting options for “sensitive” topics starting in January, which could be related to “causes, organizations or public figures related to health, race or ethnicity, political affiliation, religion or sexual orientation. ” 

In this case, the health topic could be diabetes or lung cancer awareness, sexual orientation could refer to same-sex marriage and LGBT culture, and religion could refer to practices and groups such as the Catholic Church or Jewish holidays. 

According to the Facebook for Business Help Center, detailed targeting allows organizations to “purify” the audience of users to whom Facebook displays their ads based on demographics, interests, and behavior, writes Popsci. 

This followed another recent privacy change Meta made when it announced last week that it was deleting a huge Facebook archive of user fingerprints, which was used to suggest tagging faces in photos. 

Regarding this latest update, Graham Mudd, Meta’s vice president of ad product marketing, said in a press release: ” It is important to note that the interest targeting options we remove are not based on people’s physical characteristics or personal characteristics, but on things like what people interact with content on our platform. ” 

He goes on to say that personalized advertising experiences “enable people to discover the products and services of small businesses that may not be able to advertise on television or other forms of media.” 

Mudd warned that even with revised ad targeting, users can still see ad content that doesn’t interest them, so the team is expanding user control options that will allow people to choose to see fewer ads on certain types of content. From now on, users can choose to see fewer ads related to politics, parenting, alcohol, and pets. Next year, it will expand the categories to include content such as gambling or weight loss. 

This decision, Mudd wrote, was made in response to concerns expressed by experts who worry that this type of ad targeting could harm people in underrepresented groups. 

Sandra Wachter, an associate professor at the Oxford Internet Institute at Oxford University, wrote in a 2019 paper published in the Berkeley Technology Law Journal that online platform providers using “behavioral” advertising “can infer highly sensitive information about individuals, target or exclude certain groups of products and services, or to offer different prices.” This is a concept she calls “association discrimination.” For example, she noted in the paper that “dog owners,” which may appear to be a harmless group category, can be used as an intermediary feature for lenders to decide who might qualify for a loan application. 

After a series of ProPublica investigations launched in 2016 revealed that certain companies had used targeted advertising to exclude users by race and other categories, Facebook said in 2019 that it would no longer allow employers, lenders, or landlords to discriminate against protected groups, after comments made by a number of civil rights organizations. 

The New York Times reported that “Meta relies on targeted advertising for most of its $ 86 billion in annual revenue.” Mudd noted that these new changes could affect small businesses, nonprofits, and advocacy groups located on his platforms, but suggested alternative advertising options such as broad gender and age targeting and the use of engaging customized audiences that would reach people who liked their site or had an interaction with their posts. 

By: Olivia J.