Facebook under fire for reportedly letting advertisers exclude users by 'ethnic affinity'

Photo credit: Sean Gallup / Getty Images
Caption
Photo credit: Sean Gallup / Getty Images

Facebook is under fire after a new report claimed that the social networking site lets advertisers exclude people with certain "ethnic affinities" from receiving their ads.

ProPublica reported Friday that it was able to buy a housing-related ad on Facebook that "excluded anyone with an 'affinity' for African-American, Asian-American or Hispanic people." 

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John Relman, a civil rights lawyer, called the practice "horrifying."

"This is massively illegal," Relman told ProPublica. "This is about as blatant a violation of the federal Fair Housing Act as one can find."

Under the Fair Housing Act, ads for housing or employment cannot discriminate "based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin."

According to BuzzFeed, a representative for Facebook said ProPublica's ad wasn't for housing but for a housing-related event.

"All major brands have strategies to speak to different audiences with culturally relevant creative," the spokesman told BuzzFeed.

Steve Satterfield, Facebook's privacy and public policy manager, said company "policies prohibit using our target options to discriminate, and they require compliance with the law." He also told ProPublica that "ethnic affinity" is not race.

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