The company said all the way back in November of previous year, after ProPublica's initial report, that it would no longer allow ads for housing, credit, or employment that target based on "ethnic affinity", the loose term Facebook uses to identify race-related profiles built using user-reported information. Last November, the news organization created an ad for an event aimed at renters, and then blocked it from pages of users classified as having an "ethnic affinity" of black, Asian-American or Hispanic. Facebook testified that Russian ad buys meant to influence voters could have reached the eyes of as many as 126 million Americans.
News about the capability triggered complaints by lawmakers, and also sparked a potential class-action civil rights lawsuit.
Under the Fair Housing Act, it is illegal to publish housing advertisements that indicate "any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin".
When it comes to preventing housing discrimination, Facebook appears to be falling far short of its promises.A year ago, Facebook announced it would bar housing ads targeted by race from its social network.
Vora added that Facebook would be expanding its previously tightened up anti-discrimination policies to all types of Facebook ads.
He never did answer a question that I emailed earlier in the day which asked, "Does Facebook acknowledge that it has made the world an objectively worse place to live and if so, what does it plan to do in order to lessen the suffering that it causes on a daily basis?" Most ads were approved within three minutes, except for an exclusion for people "interested in Islam, Sunni Islam and Shia Islam" which was also eventually approved.
Facebook acknowledged the report. If the algorithms tag an ad as falling into one of those categories, advertisers are required to certify that their ads don't violate discrimination laws. "The rental housing ads purchased by ProPublica should have but did not trigger the extra review and certifications we put in place due to a technical failure". Last year Facebook took in over 19 percent of all online ad revenue, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, netting $14.1 billion.
All of these ads are in direct violation of US Fair Housing laws, and possibly Australian laws as well. And that increasingly is landing the company in hot water, from violence on its streaming service, Facebook Live, to racial targeting of ads.
Facebook ads failed their own protocols. Still, advertisers are widely able to read between the lines, like when Universal Pictures marketed different Straight Outta Compton trailers past year for the "white" and the "African-American" ethnic affinities.