Doing More to Protect Against Discrimination in Housing, Employment and Credit Advertising

By Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer

One of our top priorities is protecting people from discrimination on Facebook. Today, we’re announcing changes in how we manage housing, employment and credit ads on our platform. These changes are the result of historic settlement agreements with leading civil rights organizations and ongoing input from civil rights experts.

We’re proud that our services help businesses reach people all over the world who are interested in their products and services. Small businesses now have access to marketing tools that previously only big companies could afford. This levels the playing field so that they can reach audiences they care about. As a result, more than half of small businesses on Facebook say they’ve hired more employees due to growth since joining our platform.

Our job is to make sure these benefits continue while also making sure that our ads tools aren’t misused. There is a long history of discrimination in the areas of housing, employment and credit, and this harmful behavior should not happen through Facebook ads.

Last year, one of the US’s top housing civil rights organizations, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), as well as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and other private parties, filed litigation against us, saying that we need to build stronger protections against abuse.

Civil rights leaders and experts – including members of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and Laura Murphy, the highly respected civil rights leader who is overseeing the Facebook civil rights audit – have also raised valid concerns about this issue. We take their concerns seriously and, as part of our civil rights audit, engaged the noted civil rights law firm Relman, Dane & Colfax to review our ads tools and help us understand what more we could do to guard against misuse.

Our policies already prohibit advertisers from using our tools to discriminate. We’ve removed thousands of categories from targeting related to protected classes such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and religion. But we can do better.

We believe that the changes we’re announcing today as part of our settlements with the NFHA, ACLU, CWA and other groups will better protect people on Facebook:

Anyone who wants to run housing, employment or credit ads will no longer be allowed to target by age, gender or zip code. Advertisers offering housing, employment and credit opportunities will have a much smaller set of targeting categories to use in their campaigns overall. Multicultural affinity targeting will continue to be unavailable for these ads. Additionally, any detailed targeting option describing or appearing to relate to protected classes will also be unavailable. We’re building a tool so you can search for and view all current housing ads in the US targeted to different places across the country, regardless of whether the ads are shown to you.

Housing, employment and credit ads are crucial to helping people buy new homes, start great careers, and gain access to credit. They should never be used to exclude or harm people. Getting this right is deeply important to me and all of us at Facebook because inclusivity is a core value for our company.

We’re grateful to everyone who has worked with us to improve our ads tools and to the NFHA and ACLU for their leadership. Today’s changes mark an important step in our broader effort to prevent discrimination and promote fairness and inclusion on Facebook. But our work is far from over. We’re committed to doing more, and we look forward to engaging in serious consultation and work with key civil rights groups, experts and policymakers to help us find the right path forward.

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