Facebook Temporarily Removed Self-reported Data Targeting

September 22, 2017

Collective Measures

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Facebook Disables Targeting of Self-Reported Data like Employers, Job Titles

Last week, Facebook announced that it had updated its advertising capabilities, withdrawing the ability to reach users based on certain self-reported data fields, such as employer, job title, field of study, and education. Following a manual review of targeting fields and options, Facebook has since reinstated roughly 5,000 of the terms that were blocked last week.

The initial update came after Facebook discovered a small percentage of users were entering offensive information into self-reported data fields, a violation of Facebook’s policies. ProPublica informed Facebook that terms like “NaziParty” were appearing in the ad interface as options for audience targeting. Facebook immediately removed the offensive fields and pulled back the ability for advertisers to target users based on the self-reported data within new campaigns. Existing campaigns were not affected in the update.

“Hate speech and discriminatory advertising have no place on our platform. Our community standards strictly prohibit attacking people based on their protected characteristics, including religion, and we prohibit advertisers from discriminating against people based on religion and other attributes.” – Facebook

Facebook Manually Reinstates Targeting

After a week of manual review by Facebook, some of the self-reported data fields are again available for advertisers, including the most commonly used terms within those fields.

“After manually reviewing existing targeting options, we are reinstating the roughly 5,000 most commonly used targeting terms – such as ‘nurse,’ ‘teacher’ or ‘dentistry.’ We have made sure these meet our Community Standards.” – Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO

To ensure that ads are not being utilized for discriminatory purposes, Facebook briefly removed the targeting capabilities to develop a process that would fix the issue. Now, following the initial manual review and reinstatement of terms that align with Facebook’s policies, the social network is moving forward with continued manual review of self-reported user data and advertiser targeting to prevent offensive terms from reappearing.

Looking Ahead at Facebook’s Targeting of Self-Reported Data

Facebook has also indicated that it will be working on a program that allows users and marketers to report potential abuses within the ad system. Additionally, Facebook is updating its ad policies to help prevent discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, gender, and disabilities.

What the Facebook Targeting Update Means for Advertisers

Although last week’s announcement induced panic for some advertisers, the reinstatement of targeting based on employer, job title, and education will continue to play an important role in social marketing, especially within the B2B vertical. Advertisers should continue to be mindful of targeting parameters to ensure their marketing efforts reach priority audiences without propagating hate speech or discrimination.

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