When Mark Zuckerberg and his board decided to rename Facebook to Meta, they really wanted to go above and beyond as the name translates to Greek. The company has already launched a consolidation of its financial services and now appears to be on the way to cleaning up its ad targeting business.
After being variously accused of supporting fake news, promoting hate, and even using paid ads to promote some, Meta is now aiming to make it harder to target specific groups on Facebook. Groups that form around religious beliefs or perhaps political ideologies. Even those based on sexual orientation.
An announcement to this effect was made late last night regarding the removal of targeted advertising related to certain topics that people may perceive as sensitive. While users can benefit from the move scheduled for January 19, advertisers might find it somewhat inconvenient. Considering that Meta derives almost 98% of its revenue from advertising, this should be classified as a major policy change.
A major political change
Meta’s vice president for ad marketing Graham Mudd described the change as a response to concerns from civil rights experts and policymakers about how advertisers might abuse targeting options on Facebook. He also clarified that the policy change was the result of people’s interactions with the content of his platforms, namely Facebook, Instagram, etc.
Four years ago, in 2017, Facebook found itself embroiled in a major scandal as ProPublica discovered it was targeting ads to users interested in anti-Semitic topics as well as anti-Islamic rhetoric around the world. In 2019, there was controversy surrounding large companies using Facebook to discriminate against women and older workers. More recently, a report in Buzzfeed claimed that Facebook was running ads for bulletproof vests, gun cases, etc.
Describing the decision to remove the detailed targeting options as “not easy,” Mudd said in the blog post that some of Meta’s advertising partners were concerned that these options would disappear because they could also generate positive societal change. A few believed the move would have a negative impact on nonprofits and public affairs groups seeking to raise funds.
What is important to understand is that Meta’s policy change does not take away the right of advertisers to target people on platforms. Mudd said Facebook remains committed to helping small businesses, advocacy groups and nonprofits reach their target audiences and added that they have the tools for them.
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