Facebook axes 5,000 ad categories that excluded based on ethnicity, religion

The company plans to educate its advertisers on discriminatory behavior.

Marrian Zhou Staff Reporter
Marrian Zhou is a Beijing-born Californian living in New York City. She joined CNET as a staff reporter upon graduation from Columbia Journalism School. When Marrian is not reporting, she is probably binge watching, playing saxophone or eating hot pot.
Marrian Zhou
2 min read
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Facebook has removed over 5,000 ad targeting categories to limit advertisers' ability to be discriminatory on its platform.


Facebook is looking to make its advertising platform less discriminatory.  

On Tuesday, the company said it had removed more than 5,000 ad-targeting categories in an effort to limit the ability of advertisers to exclude users based on ethnicity or religion.

In the coming weeks, advertisers will have to go through a process of certification that'll educate them on the "difference between acceptable ad targeting and ad discrimination," the company wrote in a blog post.

Some of the removed interest categories include "Buddhism" and "Islamic culture." The company won't release the full list of the deleted categories to prevent bad actors from adjusting their strategies accordingly, said a person familiar with Facebook's thinking.

This comes as the social network's ad targeting categories and methods have been under scrutiny. Last week, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development filed a complaint against the tech giant for letting advertisers pick and choose who could see their housing ads based on ethnicity.

Facebook said the removal of ad tags wasn't a response to the HUD complaint. "We've been building these tools for a long time and collecting input from different outside groups," a spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

Last month, Facebook removed the word "treason" from a list of user interest categories advertisers could target, due to concern that the Russian government could've identified its citizens marked with the word.

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