03:40 GMT +317 December 2017
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    Facebook’s Targeted Advertising Lets Users be Excluded From Ads Based on Race

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    Facebook’s targeting options for advertisers have been found to include racial exclusions.

    A recent investigation by ProPublica journalists has revealed that the social network doesn't mind if you want to exclude certain "ethnic affinities" — the term used in Facebook's advertising portal — from the audience that sees your ad.

    According to Julia Angwin and Terry Parris Jr. of ProPublica, they were able to purchase an ad in Facebook's housing categories that was targeted to all users looking for houses except for those that had an "affinity" for African-American, Asian-American or Hispanic people.

    "This is horrifying," civil rights lawyer John Relman told the journalists. "This is massively illegal. This is about as blatant a violation of the federal Fair Housing Act as one can find."

    The Fair Housing Act of 1968 is intended to protect buyers or renters from discrimination and prohibits, among other things, sellers or the landlords from using advertising indicating any preference or limitation based on sensitive factors such as race, religion or familial status.

    Steve Satterfield, privacy and public policy manager at Facebook, told reporters that the network's policies require that advertisers comply with the law and don't use Facebook users' personal data for any kind of discrimination. He explained that people don't have to state their race when they sign up and that "ethnic affinities" groups are rather based on pages and posts they have liked or engaged with on Facebook.

    When asked why "Ethnic Affinity" was included in the "Demographics" category of the ad-targeting tool, Facebook responded that it plans to move the category to a different section.

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