Facebook stopped ability to target ads by excluding racial groups

For avid online marketers, the landscape on Facebook might never be the same again. Facebook has put on hold racial exclusion feature on Facebook Ads. This feature enabled the inclusion or exclusion of specific ethnic groups of people from campaigns. Recent reports show that this targeting function can be used to discriminate against minority groups. According to the US federal law, it is unlawful to publish campaigns that disadvantage others based on race, religion, gender, and other classifications. Facebook has announced that it is suspending this targeting functionality until further notice.

New ethical realities

While multi-cultural marketing is a thriving practice in business, Facebook has awoken to ethical realities. Unscrupulous marketers have had a green light for a long time to disadvantage minority groups and exclude them from opportunities. This recent development will perhaps give Facebook time to review its Ad policies and make them more stringent.

The criticisms started last year when black lawmakers pointed out the loophole in Facebook’s multicultural affinity marketing feature. It’s been brought to the attention of the company that housing, credit and employment campaigns target a white minority, disadvantaging minorities in specific geographical locations. In light of that Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg wrote to the Congressional Black Caucus announcing the suspension of the segmentation feature.

Ethics doesn’t rhyme with automation

Again, it stands out that automation and ethics are not kin. When it comes to marketing, there is a thin line between segmentation and discrimination, and machines might never see that in a long time. In the past, Facebook has allowed questionable discriminatory ads to run. The company relies heavily on automated reviewing before ads run, and that can allude to the rising ethical concerns. According to reports by ProPublica, apart from the discriminatory housing campaigns some even encouraged Nazism.

Facebook ads might turn out less impactful on the dollar

Facebooks audience optimization tool allows one to customize who sees and who doesn’t see a campaign for a more impactful marketing, and higher return on investment. The multicultural affinity marketing tool could enable or disable ads within specific locations and to users of a particular language, age, and gender. Without this kind of demographic segmentation, ads may turn out less impactful. It will be expensive to reach the right audience per dollar of a campaign. In addition to the disabling of multicultural affinity advertising function, Facebook has also mentioned that it will carry out a thorough audit of ads that discriminate on gender and religion.

Complete overhaul is highly unlikely

Facebook is data-driven, elimination of this targeting option is highly unlikely. Currently, the COO is calling it just a suspension.’ It is statistically improbable that Facebook could do away with this model of marketing. Segmentation is the backbone of Facebook advertisements. They earn their money from efficiency in marketing. They attain that by mapping user traits and race is just one of them. This enables them to predict user wants and for marketers to rightfully target potential customers. Is Facebook ready to lose advertisers’ revenue because of the ethical speculations?

It is also safe to point out that the castigations in part stem from Russia’s interference of the 2016 election by use of targeted ads on Facebook. While all these concerns are real, some capitalists could come out and say �no hard feelings; it’s just business.’