By Erin Egan, VP, US Public Policy and Chief Privacy Officer

Over the past several years, we’ve worked to build ways for advertisers to reach a diverse range of audiences on Facebook. One example of this is our “ethnic affinity” marketing solution, which gives brands a way to reach multicultural audiences with more relevant advertising. Our policies strictly prohibit discriminatory uses of this solution. Today, we’re announcing some additional changes designed to better enable us to enforce these policies.

Recently, policymakers and civil rights leaders have expressed concerns that advertisers could misuse some aspects of our affinity marketing segments. Specifically, they’ve raised the possibility that some advertisers might use these segments to run ads that discriminate against people, particularly in areas where certain groups have historically faced discrimination — housing, employment and the extension of credit.

We take these issues seriously. Discriminatory advertising has no place on Facebook.

We are constantly trying to find ways to improve enforcement of our anti-discrimination policies. We have been meeting with important leaders, including New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, US Rep. Robin Kelly of Illinois and the Congressional Black Caucus, and US Rep. Linda Sánchez of California and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, to listen to their concerns and their ideas about how Facebook can better support our existing efforts to combat wrongful discrimination.

Going forward, we have decided to make the following changes to our advertising products. We will:

  • Build tools to detect and automatically disable the use of ethnic affinity marketing for certain types of ads: We will disable the use of ethnic affinity marketing for ads that we identify as offering housing, employment, or credit. There are many non-discriminatory uses of our ethnic affinity solution in these areas, but we have decided that we can best guard against discrimination by suspending these types of ads. We will continue to explore ways that our ethnic affinity solution can be used to promote inclusion of underrepresented communities, and we will continue to work with stakeholders toward that goal.
  • Offer more clarification and education: We will update our Advertising Policies to be even more explicit and require advertisers to affirm that they will not engage in discriminatory advertising on Facebook, and we will offer new educational materials to help advertisers understand their obligations with respect to housing, employment and credit.

We are grateful for the partnership of a number groups who have engaged in a constructive dialogue with us about these issues, including the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the National Fair Housing Alliance, the Center for Democracy & Technology, the Brookings Institution, and Upturn.

We are making these changes to deter discrimination and strengthen our ability to enforce our policies. We look forward to finding additional ways to combat discrimination, while increasing opportunity, and to continuing our dialogue with policymakers and civil rights leaders about these important issues.