“We will continue to explore ways that our ethnic affinity solution can be used to promote inclusion of underrepresented communities, and we will continue to work with stakeholders toward that goal,” Egan wrote.
Policymakers were pleased with the action Facebook has taken. New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, US Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) of the Congressional Black Caucus and US Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.) of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus helped Facebook reach its decision.
“We welcome Facebook’s announcement that it wants to look for other ways to combat discrimination, and look forward to further conversations with Facebook to ensure robust and specific prohibitions against discriminatory ad targeting based on gender, sexual orientation, religion and other protected characteristics,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, in a statement.
The Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) said in a blog post that it supports Facebook’s ban of ethnic affinities.
“We are pleased that Facebook took action to implement some of our suggestions,” wrote Aletha Lange, senior policy analyst at CDT. “These changes will improve Facebook’s platform and protect its users from the worst types of discriminatory advertising.”
But Facebook is walking a thin line and should be careful to avoid such illegal activity in the future, advised Gary Kibel, a partner within the digital media, technology and privacy practice group at the law firm of Davis & Gilbert LLP.
“There are many laws and self-regulatory guidelines that address how an individual’s status as a member of a protected class can be used,” he said. “Both marketers and platforms should ensure that they do not intentionally or unintentionally run afoul of such requirements.”
Facebook did not respond to requests for comment.