Meta must remove discriminating criteria from its advertising targeting technology

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The logo of US multinational tech conglomerate Meta at the World Economic Forum in Davos on May 22.

Photo: AFP/VNA/CVN

According to the US government, social networking technologies allowed advertisers to choose who could see their ads, based on gender, skin color, social background, religion, family status or disability. .

“It’s a historic agreement”welcomed Kristen Clarke, head of civil rights at the Ministry of Justice, quoted in a press release on Tuesday, June 21.

“This is the first time that Meta will terminate one of its algorithmic targeting tools and change its algorithms for housing ads after civil rights lawsuits,” she added.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Planning filed a lawsuit against Facebook in March 2019, alleging that companies had used the platform’s tools to “exclude people classified as related, not born in the United States, not Christian, who are interested in handicap access, Hispanic culture, or a wide range of other interests”.

The agreement reached on Tuesday after a year of talks still needs to be approved by a court. It provides that the Californian giant of social networks modify its targeting system for housing advertisements, in order to avoid these biases, under the control of the ministry.

Meta, for its part, explained that it is working on a method that is supposed to guarantee that users who see these ads, but also those for jobs or credits, “correspond better to the audiences targeted and eligible for these offers”, Roy Austin, the group’s vice president for civil rights, said in a statement.

He recalled that the company, world number two in digital advertising, had already changed its practices after the 2019 complaint: “advertisers who advertise housing offers on our platforms already have access to only a limited number of targeting criteria (…), including restrictions on age, gender or postal code. Our new method is built on this foundation”.

But “given the complexity” of the problem, he said, “It’s going to take time to test and implement.”

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