Friday August 24, 2018
Facebook has been in the news a lot this year. So has Russia (as always), and Cambridge Analytica. The scandal earlier this year made big waves in the social media world, and therefore in the business world. But Facebook isn't done making changes. This week, they announced they'll also be removing over 5,000 of their advanced ad targeting options.
Why is Facebook making these changes?
The Cambridge Analytica scandal wasn't the first time Facebook has been been in hot water over their ad targeting options. In late 2016, an investigation showed that Facebook gave the option for targeting or excluding people based on ethnicity in housing and real estate ads. A landlord or homeowner could exclude people with certain "ethnic affinities" from seeing their ads. Facebook added a non-discriminatory certificate that anyone buying a housing ad must agree to, but they didn't remove the targeting option.
Then, the Cambridge Analytica scandal revealed that certain groups were targeting people based on their religious and political views. The hyper-targeted ads were designed to influence voters in the 2016 presidential election. Cambridge Analytica, though, wasn't the only one. The Internet Research Agency based in Russia was also reportedly using Facebook ads to sway public opinion. After the scandal broke, Facebook updated its ad policy again, removing the option to use information from third-party data miners for targeting.
Just this month, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development followed up on the earlier investigation and filed a complaint against Facebook for allowing advertisers to discriminate against renters or homebuyers of certain backgrounds. The subsequent decision from Facebook removes options that could be used for racial profiling or religious discrimination in all ads. Per Buzzfeed:
"A business that didn't want Jewish people patronizing it could exclude those interested in 'Passover' from seeing its ads. A landlord that didn't want to rent to Native Americans could exclude those interested in 'Native American culture.'"
Facebook will also require all advertisers to accept the non-discrimination certificate before being able to buy ads.
So what do these changes mean for your business?
With the new changes, you'll be required to accept the non-discrimination certificate before you continue advertising. But you may not experience as much change in your ability to effectively target as you may expect. John Dick, Hubspot's VP of Marketing, comments that "these changes seem to be aimed at limiting particularly unethical targeting." Even without the 5,000 options being cut, Facebook still has a significant amount of targeting options available, possibly more than any other ad platform. Eliminating targeting based on ethnicity and religion probably won't affect most businesses' ads. And allowing political or religious ads to show to any Facebook user could help eliminate echo chambers - the effect of people only hearing voices with the same viewpoints, beliefs, and opinions as them.
We'll see how the story continues to play out, but Facebook is now recognizing more than ever how people have misused their platform and are taking measures against it. For the majority of businesses, creating and publishing ads will go on like usual for the time being.
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