Facebook Inc said Tuesday that it plans to remove detailed ad targeting options that reference “sensitive” topics, such as ads based on interactions with content about race, health, religious practices, political beliefs or sexual orientation.
The company, which recently changed its name to Meta and makes the vast majority of its revenue through digital advertising, has come under close scrutiny of its advertising targeting capabilities and rules in recent years.
In a blog post, Facebook provided examples of targeting categories that would no longer be allowed on its platforms, such as “Lung Cancer Awareness”, “World Diabetes Day”, “LGBT Culture”, “Jewish Holidays” or beliefs. political and social issues. He said the change would take place starting January 19, 2022.
The company has been hit with criticism of its micro-targeting capabilities, including abuses such as advertisers who discriminate against or target vulnerable groups. In 2019, it agreed to make changes to its advertising platform as part of a settlement on housing discrimination issues.
“We’ve received concerns from experts that targeting options like these could be used in ways that lead to negative experiences for people in underrepresented groups,” said Graham Mudd, vice president of product marketing for the company’s ads, in post.
Its bespoke advertising capabilities are used by wide-ranging advertisers, including political campaigns and social issues groups, as well as businesses.
“The decision to remove these verbose targeting options was not an easy one and we know this change could negatively impact some businesses and organizations,” Mudd said in the post, adding that some advertising partners were concerned they would not be able. to use these additions to generate positive results. social change.
Advertisers on Facebook’s platforms can still target audiences based on location, use their own customer lists, reach custom audiences who have interacted with their content, and send ads to people with similar characteristics to those users.
The move marks a key shift in the company’s approach to social and political advertising, although it is not expected to have major financial implications. CEO Mark Zuckerberg estimated in 2019, for example, that politicians’ ads would account for less than 0.5% of Facebook’s 2020 revenue.
The issue of political advertising on social media platforms, including whether the content of politicians’ announcements should be verified, has sparked much debate among the public, lawmakers and businesses around the US presidential election.
Twitter Inc banned political ads altogether in 2019, but Facebook previously said it would not restrict how political advertisers reached potential voters.
Facebook, which now allows users to choose to see fewer ads related to topics like politics and alcohol, said on Tuesday that early next year it will give people more control over the ads they see, including those about gaming. gambling and weight loss.
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