Bust Them Up into 1000 Pieces

I am referring to Facebook, of course.

They’ve been at again.

Specifically, they have been actively aiding its advertisers in discriminating:

Though Facebook announced a voluntary plan to update its controversial advertising-filter system earlier this year, Washington state announced a firmer plan for the social media company on Tuesday.

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced a legally binding plan that will force Facebook to “make significant changes to its advertising platform by removing the ability of third-party advertisers to exclude ethnic and religious minorities, immigrants, LGBTQ individuals, and other protected groups from seeing their ads.”

Ferguson also declared the end of his office’s 20-month investigation into Facebook’s advertising practices on Tuesday, which coincided with an Assurance of Discontinuance (PDF) filed in King County Superior Court.


One sample ad for a restaurant, as described by Ferguson’s office, “excluded African-American, Asian-American, and Latinx ethnic affinity groups.” When reached by Ars Technica, the attorney general’s communications director, Brionna Aho, was unable to provide copies of the fake ads and directed Ars to a public records request process. Ferguson’s announcement included a screenshot of the site’s advertising-purchase interface, which included “ethnic affinity” labels.

The announcement pointed to Facebook’s assurances in February 2017 to “improve enforcement of its prohibition against discrimination in advertising” and then cited additional ProPublica reporting that showed Facebook had not held up its end of the bargain. As Ferguson’s office writes:


After acknowledging another Facebook filter change in light of that last ProPublica report, Ferguson’s office expressed continued concerns about Facebook’s ability to block discriminatory advertising. Even after those November 2017 changes, Washington state investigators were still able to “exclude people [from seeing advertisements] based on several other protected classes, such as sexual orientation, religious affiliation, and veteran status” and apply these discriminatory filters to ads for “public accommodations and insurance.” (Ferguson’s statement defines “public accommodations” as “all businesses open to the public.”)

Thus, Tuesday’s Assurance of Discontinuance includes two key, legally binding provisions: Facebook can no longer “exclude ethnic groups from advertisements for insurance and public accommodations” or “provide advertisers with tools to discriminate based on race, creed, color, national origin, veteran or military status, sexual orientation, and disability status.”

I would note that this is not limited to Facebook.

There are a whole bunch of people who are offering micro-targeting of advertisements on the internet, and the ability to engage in bigotry in without any human contact.

Let me just say, “Muck Fark Zuckerberg.”

One comment

  1. Interesting problem. Suppose I wanted to advertise Kosher food, or African hair products. I would want to select, so as not to waste my time.

    I could select by neighborhood either to get a specific economic group, or to select by race. The effect would be about the same.

    That of course is not an exclusion, but any targeting will cause problems.

    Mind, providing data and tools is not the samething as actually helping.

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