Facebook can no longer allow advertisers to block minorities or other groups from seeing advertisements, according to an agreement with Washington state.
The social media company signed a legally-binding agreement to modify its advertising platform and removing the ability of third party advertisers from excluding ethnic and religious minorities, immigrants, LGBTQ individuals and members of other protected groups from seeing their advertisements.
The agreement resolves a near two-year probe of Facebook by the Washington state Attorney General’s Office which was prompted after nonprofit ProPublica published an article on the company’s advertisement targeting.
“Facebook’s advertising platform allowed unlawful discrimination on the basis of race, sexual orientation, disability and religion,” said Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson in a statement. “That’s wrong, illegal and unfair.”
The site’s advertising platform allows advertisers to create and target advertisements using a wide range of options based on user interests including the following ethnic affinities: African American, Asian American and Hispanic, according to the agreement. Investigators in the Attorney General’s Office used the platform to create 20 fake advertisements that excluded one or more ethnic minorities from receiving advertising for nightclubs, restaurants, lending, insurance, employment and housing. But despite the discriminatory exclusions, Facebook approved all 20 ads.
The agreement also expands the types of advertisements that will receive more enforcement from Facebook to include insurance and “public accommodations,” which are all businesses open to the public. The company has 90 days to adhere to the agreement.