Facebook Removing Ads Aimed at Black People

By CultureBanx Team

  • Facebook miscategorizing ads geared towards African Americans as political

  • Less than 5% of Facebook's ad revenue comes from political ads

Complaints are piling up around Facebook (FB -0.56%) mis-categorizing ads geared towards African Americans as political, when in fact they are not. As an advertising powerhouse, this year they adopted stricter disclosures for political campaigns and contentious national issues, it seems as though they may be over-correcting.

Why This Matters: Blocking ads along racial or ethnic lines raises several alarming concerns, as Facebook wants to have its cake and eat it too. They have been deploying artificial intelligence to sift through ads, a tool with deep rooted issues when it comes to racial fairness. Removing ads that mention race and identity point to the tense climate of political discourse in our country, making the company play the role of arbiter.

Removing ads that mention race and identity point to the tense climate of political discourse in our country

Facebook’s advertising business made nearly $40 billion in revenue during 2017. However, less than 5% of Facebook's ad revenue comes from political ads, which begs the question why not just ban them all together. They would still be able to bring in outsized ad revenues from major brands and small businesses that use the platform, for its ability to precisely target audiences.

USA Today found some of the ads being removed included one by Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority for 3D mammograms to promote breast cancer awareness in Houston. It was taken down after being categorized as political for advocating for women's health, falling under health care as an issue of national importance, according to Facebook.

Another ad placed by the Brandeis University Alumni Association highlighting its first black graduate was also rejected as political by Facebook. The social media giant reviewed both ads at USA Today's request and found they were removed in error.

"To explicitly associate African-American or any type of racial term or appellation with being political with the obvious insinuation of being politically divisive is deeply troubling," said Chad Williams, Brandeis University professor.

Situational Awareness: The main reason behind removing ads is part of Facebook’s safeguards aimed at preventing foreign election interference and other nefarious activities. They do have an appeals process in place for rejected ads, but never give a clear explanation on why they remove them.

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