The US-based social media giant, Facebook, is planning to block advertisers from using detailed ad targeting options that refer to “sensitive” topics, such as ads based on interactions with content related to race, health, religious practices, political beliefs or sexual orientation.
The company, which recently changed its name to Meta, makes the vast majority of its revenue through digital advertising and it has been under intense scrutiny over its ad-targeting abilities and rules in recent years.
“We’ve heard concerns from experts that targeting options like these could be used in ways that lead to negative experiences for people in underrepresented groups,” Mr. Graham Mudd, Meta’s Vice President for marketing and ads, said in the blog post.
In the blog post, Facebook gave 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 political beliefs and social issues.
Meta has been facing criticisms around its micro-targeting capabilities. In 2019, the company agreed to make changes to its ads platform as part of a settlement over housing discrimination issues. Its tailored ad abilities are used by wide-ranging advertisers, including political campaigns and social issue groups as well as businesses.
“The decision to remove these Detailed Targeting options was not easy and we know this change may negatively impact some businesses and organizations,” Mr. Mudd said in the post.
The change will go into effect across Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger on January 19th, 2022. Advertisers on Facebook’s platforms can still target audiences by location, use their own customer lists, reach custom audiences who have engaged with their content and send ads to people with similar characteristics to those users.
The move marks a key shift for the company’s approach to social and political advertising, though it is not expected to have major financial implications. The issue of political advertising on social media platforms, including whether the content of politicians’ ads should be fact-checked, provoked much debate among the public, lawmakers and companies around the US presidential election.
Facebook, which now allows users to opt to see fewer ads related to topics like politics and alcohol, said that it would give people more control over the ads they see by early next year, including ones about gambling and weight loss.