Facebook will no longer allow advertisers to target political beliefs, religion, sexual orientation

Facebook can target users based on information provided in their profile, like their age, location or gender.

Facebook announced today that it will no longer allow advertisers to target users based on potentially “sensitive” topics like health, sexual orientation, or religious and political beliefs. “Lung cancer awareness,” “LGBT culture” and “Jewish holidays” are just some of the interest categories that will no longer be targeted starting early next year.

“The decision to remove these Detailed Targeting options was not easy and we know this change may negatively impact some businesses and organizations,” the company wrote in a blog post, saying input from civil rights experts, policymakers and other stakeholders contributed to its decision. Advertising revenue is Facebook’s leading source of income, so any major change to ad policy can have significant ramifications.

Facebook can target users based on information provided in their profile, like their age, location or gender. But the platform never made it possible to target people based on the sexual orientation listed in their profile, a representative from the company told TechCrunch. Rather, the advertising that will be removed refers to ads that are served based on your profile’s interest categories.

Facebook assigns these interest categories to your profile based on your activity. Based on how you engage with Facebook content, you might be assigned categories that Facebook would call “sensitive,” like “American Jewish culture,” “LGBT rights” or “Barack Obama.” Starting January 19, advertisers will no longer be able to target their ads based on interests like these. Other interest groups like “rock climbing” and “knitting,” not being sensitive, will still be targetable — there are tens of thousands of these categories, sensitive or not.

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