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The 2020 Presidential Election is Near. But Will Facebook's Policy Leave the Door Open For Suppression of the Black Vote?

Using social media as a vehicle for political advertisements and posts filled with misinformation aimed at sabotaging the Black vote was put on display with Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. As the 2020 presidential election approaches, questions around the allowance of paid political ads that specifically misinform Black demographics and measures social media platform executives, like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, will take to prevent such ads are being heavily discussed. During a town hall meeting held in September, civil rights leaders met with Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg, in hopes to discuss the preventive measures the social media giant would put into place to combat the racial geared voter suppression messages that ran rampant on the platform during the 2016 election. Instead, Sandberg upheld Facebook’s policy that exempts politicians from its third-party fact-checking program. This means politicians including sitting president Donald Trump — whose...

Devin Crudup

Nov 4, 2019

Facebook’s Ad Targeting Feature Discriminates, Even When Advertisers Don't Want It To

Facebook has had a lengthy list of privacy and advertising scandals within the last year. Recently, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is charging Facebook for housing discrimination in its ads. HUD alleged that Facebook’s ad platform “discriminated in the terms, conditions, or privileges of the sale or rental of dwellings because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin or disability.” Now, a recent report from Cornell University shows that Facebook’s ads can discriminate against groups even when advertisers don’t want them to. “Advertising platforms can play an independent, central role in creating skewed, and potentially discriminatory, outcomes,” the report said. The report found that the lower the daily budget an ad had, the fewer women saw it. The content of an ad can also skew the types and amount of people who see it. Researchers used public voter records in one test, resulting in the post being delivered to specific audiences, even...

Arriana McLymore

Apr 5, 2019

Facebook Introduces New Tool That Explains Why Certain Posts Appear On Your News Feed

It’s not uncommon to scroll through Facebook and wonder why the heck you’re seeing a specific post. Now, Facebook is introducing a tool to help answer that question. “News Feed is always personalized to you — and starting today you’ll have even more information and control over your experience,” Facebook’s product manager, Ramya Sethuraman, wrote in a blog post . Found in the drop-down menu in the right-hand corner of a post, the new “Why am I seeing this post?” feature does exactly what its name suggests. It’ll explain how your past interactions impacted the ranking of posts in your newsfeed and will also tell you why you’re seeing certain posts. According to Sethuraman, users said that transparency into News Feed algorithms wasn’t enough without people being given control over it. So, the new feature also allows people to take action and manage what they see in their News Feed. In addition, Facebook has made improvements to its “Why am I seeing this ad?” feature. The tool was...

Vanessa Taylor

Apr 2, 2019

Facebook Hit With Housing Discrimination Charges From the US Government

Facebook has gotten away with a lot — from continuous privacy breaches to questionable advertising systems — but it seems the government’s patience is wearing thin. Today, the Department of Housing and Urban development hit Facebook with a lawsuit , saying the social media giant participates in housing discrimination. HUD’s actions are a follow up to a complaint filed in August 2018 , that stated there was evidence to believe Facebook violated the Fair Housing Act. According to a press release , HUD alleges that Facebook’s ad system unlawfully discriminates by barring certain people from seeing listings. In addition, HUD says that Facebook gathers data about users, which it then uses to figure out which of its users can view housing-related ads. “Facebook is discriminating against people based upon who they are and where they live,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson said in a statement. “Using a computer to limit a person’s housing choices can be just as discriminatory as slamming a door in...

Vanessa Taylor

Mar 28, 2019

Facebook Will Now Show You Which Advertisers are Downloading Your Data

Facebook announced it is updating its Custom Audience Transparency features later this month providing users with a snapshot of why they are being targeted in ads, and when companies are downloading their data. The company said in a post that the “Why am I seeing this?” explanations will be more detailed, providing users with information on which businesses have downloaded users’ data and why. Facebook has demographic targets for its advertising that are based on a user’s profile, which includes age and gender. Its interest targeting come from pages that a user likes and follows and other ads that they have clicked on. A Facebook spokesperson said that political-related ad targeting uses “a variety of signals to determine if someone might be interested in that content.” The post also mentioned that “on behalf of” agreements may impact the update—modification will have to be made for agencies who are advertising on behalf of another business. The agreements are opt-in, which gives...

Arriana McLymore

Feb 7, 2019

Facebook Removes Ads From Far-Right Gaming Group

Nearly eight months after Facebook removed Britain First–a far-right, fascist organization, from the platform for hate speech and violating its community standards–ads from the group began surfacing on the platform. Facebook recently removed Britain First ads petitioning to stop a mosque from being built in the U.K. The ads were posted during the holiday season on a gaming page by Political Gamers TV, a network dedicated to “gamers worldwide who wish no limits on speech.” Political Gamers TV is calling the removal of the ads “political discrimination” and plans to sue Facebook, according to the BBC. Facebook has made a growing effort to remove accounts, ads, and groups that violate its community standards. In November, Facebook removed alt-right group Proud Boys , its followers, and founder, Gavin McInnes, from using Facebook groups and Instagram after being linked to violent protests in New York. Facebook is one of many social media platforms and other websites cracking down on...

Arriana McLymore

Jan 9, 2019

Facebook Takes Another Hit, This Time With Advertisers

As if Facebook didn’t have enough to deal with, now the company is facing a lawsuit from advertisers who allege that Facebook misrepresented its ad viewership metrics. In 2016, the Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook overstated the average viewing time for video ads and that the company disclosed the error through its advertiser help center a month prior. A lawsuit filed Tuesday, alleges that Facebook knew there were problems with the way it collected data on ads before then. “Facebook’s internal efforts behind the scenes reflect a company mentality of reckless indifference toward the accuracy of its metrics,” the plaintiffs said in Tuesday’s filing. Facebook told advertisers that it overstated its metrics by 60 to 80 percent, but plaintiff’s in Tuesday’s court filing alleged that the company misrepresented the metric by 150 to 900 percent. Facebook denied any wrongdoings in a statement and has moved to dismiss the case. “Suggestions that we in any way tried to hide this...

Arriana McLymore

Oct 17, 2018

ACLU Files Charges Against Facebook For Gender Discrimination in Ads

Facebook is under fire again for its advertising. According to lawsuits from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the social media giant is allowing companies to post ads using discriminatory methods. Last week, the ACLU filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Facebook and 10 other employers alleging gender discrimination. Abas USA, Defenders, Nebraska Furniture Mart, City of Greensboro North Carolina, Need Work Today, Renewal by Andersen LLC, Rice Tire, JK Moving Services, Enhanced Roofing & Modeling, and Xenith were named in the lawsuits. Abas USA released a statement in response to the lawsuit saying that it used two separate ads — one that targeted male candidates and another that targeted females. “We ran the ads together for one week, and they produced no applicants,” said Abas USA. “This was the first and last time that we used Facebook ads targeted towards men and women.” Facebook’s ad tools allow companies to select “all,” or target...

Arriana McLymore

Sep 24, 2018