September 25, 2018
Facebook has once again come under fire for claims that their advertising platform provides tools which allow for housing discrimination. Most recently, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) filed an official complaint against Facebook citing discrimination. The claim points to tools that provide the ability for advertisers to illegally exclude specific groups based on their income and ethnicity.
The tools provided by Facebook allow advertisers to determine who can see their ads. The idea behind this is to provide specific targeting to relevant audiences. For example, a real estate brokerage firm looking to run an advertisement for buyer or seller leads may choose to remove other real estate agents from their targeting.
As with many other platforms, the potential for advertisers to abuse these settings does exist. Until recently, categories remained allowing for the exclusion of audiences based on household composition, income, or ethnicity. Advertisers looking to skirt the rules could use such targeting options as a way to discriminate against minorities, sexual preference, or just about anything else if they chose to exert the effort.
For quite some time now, this concern has been closely monitored by Facebook. This is in addition to a mandatory disclaimer advertisers must agree to in order to use the service, stating that the tools are not to be used in a discriminatory manner. Furthermore, an internal review process is put into place by the Facebook team. Any ads that are found to violate their terms are stopped and require modifications to the parameters before being permitted to display again.
In late August, Facebook announced that changes will be implemented to the ad targeting system and its operation to combat misuse of the platform in a discriminatory manner, such as excluding audiences based on their race or religion. Further updates to targeting options are expected to be shared in the coming months.
At Keenability, our Boca Raton marketing agency utilizes Facebook advertising for real estate clients. We have always used these advertising tools with a white-hat approach. Still, this is an issue that has the potential to greatly impact our industry. We advise clients to craft specifically-targeted and high-performing campaigns while implementing proper targeting options.
Our team is continuing to monitor developments on this topic and will provide updates as they become available.