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Facebook hit by civil rights grievances

Sharon Gaudin | Nov. 2, 2016
Open letter to Mark Zuckerberg alleges censorship of human rights posts

They also said pledged to work with the Facebook community and partners to figure out the best tools and policies.

"Our intent is to allow more images and stories without posing safety risks or showing graphic images to minors and others who do not want to see them," Kaplan and Osofsky wrote. "As always, our goal is to channel our community's values, and to make sure our policies reflect our community's interests."

As for the ProPublica allegation that Facebook enabled advertisers to exclude users by race, the publication reported that the social network lets advertisers target users by their background and interests, while also allowing them to exclude groups of users based on their "ethnic affinity."

The report noted that ads for housing and employment that exclude people based on factors like race and gender are prohibited by federal law.

The report then showed an ad that ProPublica said it bought in Facebook's housing category. The screenshot showed that they were able to exclude users from seeing the ad if they were African-American, Asian-American or Hispanic.

ProPublica later updated the story to note that they had not actually bought a housing ad.

"Clarification, Oct. 28, 2016: We've updated the story to explain more clearly that the ad we bought was not for housing itself — it was placed in Facebook's housing categories," the report noted.

Facebook answered the report by saying that discrimination runs counter to what its platform stands for.

"Everyone benefits from access to content that's more relevant to them," wrote Christian Martinez, head of Facebook's Multicultural group, in a blog post. "Advertisers may also focus on reaching any group directly.... A merchant selling hair care products that are designed for black women can reach people who are most likely to want its products. That merchant also may want to exclude other ethnicities for whom their hair care products are not relevant -- this is a process known in the ad industry as "exclusion targeting."


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