Facebook Inc. (“Facebook”) has announced new ad targeting restrictions for Facebook advertisers operating in the housing, employment and credit marketing space.

What do social media marketers need to know?

Facebook Ad Targeting by Ethnic Affinity

Facebook monitors its users’ posts and collects other data to assign an “ethnic affinity” to each Facebook user (e.g., African-American, Hispanic or Asian-American). Facebook marketers can use ethnic affinity as an ad targeting parameter to specifically include or exclude Facebook users of a particular ethnicity.

A number of community leaders criticized Facebook for allowing its advertisers to engage in ad targeting by ethnicity, pointing out that advertisers could use Facebook’s ethnic affinity data for purposes of unlawful discrimination.

Facebook’s New Ad Targeting Policy

In a news release on November 11, 2016, Facebook’s Vice President of U.S. Public Policy and Chief Privacy Officer announced that Facebook is in the process of updating its Advertising Policies to combat discriminatory Facebook ad targeting practices.

Further, Facebook will implement new technology that detects and automatically disables ads that use ethnic affinity data to offer housing, employment or credit to Facebook users.

Facebook Advertisers: Take Note

While Facebook’s announcement focuses primarily on the rollout of automated technology to combat certain ad targeting, the news release also suggested that Facebook will increase its enforcement of its Advertising Policies.

Social media marketers are well-advised to closely monitor the above-referenced developments and to comply with all applicable policies. Importantly, marketers that violate Facebook’s Advertising Policies may have their ads cancelled and/or accounts terminated at Facebook’s discretion.