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Facebook agrees to dial back 'racial affinity' ads

And all it took was a few AGs and lawmakers to make them do it

Facebook says it will stop allowing advertisers to set display-by-race preferences for certain types of ads.

The House of Zuck said in a Friday blog post that it would not remove its "racial affinity" preference outright, but would "build tools to detect and automatically disable" the preference in ads for housing, job postings, and credit services.

This after users had expressed concern that the ad preference, designed to help companies produce targeted and diverse ads for Facebook users, could also be abused to exclude groups from listings for housing rentals or job postings in violation of US anti-discrimination laws.

Facebook VP of public policy and chief privacy officer Erin Egan said that after hearing complaints about the system, staff at the social network met a number of officials, including New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and several members of US Congress to discuss the matter.

Now, the baffling bazaar of cat photos and fake news says it has decided to disable the race-based filter on certain ads to prevent its abuse.

"There are many non-discriminatory uses of our ethnic affinity solution in these areas, but we have decided that we can best guard against discrimination by suspending these types of ads," Egan said.

"We will continue to explore ways that our ethnic affinity solution can be used to promote inclusion of underrepresented communities, and we will continue to work with stakeholders toward that goal."

Egan added that in addition to disabling the ethnic filter for certain types of ads, Facebook will also be updating its guidelines for advertisers and changing its advertising policy to be "even more explicit" with prohibiting discriminatory ad postings.

Rep Robin Kelly (D-IL) was among those who met execs at the social network to discuss its ads policy. Shortly after today's move was announced, she issued a statement supporting the decision.

"I applaud Facebook’s efforts to ensure that countless consumers will not be subject to unfair bias and discrimination by advertisers using the ethnic affinity marketing tool," said Kelly, co-chairwoman of the Congressional Diversifying Tech Caucus.

"Facebook’s decision to end this type of marketing in housing, employment, and credit advertisement is the right decision, and brings comfort to many consumers and policymakers devoted to the issue of equity." ®

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