By Christian Martinez, Head of Multicultural
The power to connect with people on Facebook through diverse speech is incredibly meaningful. When I was a child, most people got their information from a handful of TV stations and newspapers. Each had one set of ideas and one set of ads targeted to everyone. But now each of us has the ability to choose or “like” information that’s useful to us, and to receive ads that focus on things we care about.
Everyone benefits from access to content that’s more relevant to them. But this is especially critical for people who choose to affiliate with ethnic communities.
Living in the US, most of the advertising that I see in traditional media is targeted to people in the majority — people who don’t look like me, who don’t speak Spanish, and who may not share my experience. The experience of ads constantly reminding you that you’re different from the majority is incredibly marginalizing, and it’s not right. Advertising should empower you to learn about things that are relevant to you, that speak to you, that reflect you and your community. It’s also empowering to see content that validates your community as one worth reaching.
To address this problem, most of the leading companies in the online ad space offer multicultural advertising options. Facebook gives advertisers the ability to reach people whose likes and other activity on Facebook suggest they’re interested in content relating to particular ethnic communities — African American, Hispanic American and Asian American. (Anyone can use ad preferences to learn whether they’re seeing ads based on these interests, and choose whether or not they want to receive these kinds of ads.)
Advertisers may also focus on reaching any group directly. For example, a nonprofit that’s hosting a career fair for the Hispanic community can use Facebook ads to reach people who have an interest in that community. And a merchant selling hair care products that are designed for black women can reach people who are most likely to want its products.
That merchant also may want to exclude other ethnicities for whom their hair care products are not relevant — this is a process known in the ad industry as “exclusion targeting.” This prevents audiences for community-specific ads from seeing a generic ad targeted to a large group and helps avoid the offensive outcome that traditional advertising can often create for people in the minority.
This kind of communication is positive: it reflects an advertiser’s respect for the diverse communities it is trying to reach. But it’s important to know that there’s also negative exclusion — for example, an apartment building that won’t rent to black people or an employer that only hires men. Our ad policies strictly prohibit this kind of advertising, and it’s against the law. If we learn of advertising on our platform that involves this kind of discrimination, we will take aggressive enforcement action. We also realize that, as a website, we often aren’t in a position to know the details of an apartment rental or job application — and so we will also remove an ad from our platform if the government agency responsible for enforcing discrimination laws tells us that the ad reflects illegal discrimination.
We want Facebook to be a platform that’s respectful and empowering, and that enables people to see ads and other content that respect the diversity of our global community — especially the portions of that community that have been historically underrepresented. To do this, we can’t pretend that diversity doesn’t exist, or ask diverse communities to resign themselves to seeing only ads whose very existence calls them out as different. Instead, we need to enable everyone to see the content that’s most relevant to them — and work to encourage everyone to embrace, not suppress, the diversity that makes our community great.