In a surprising move, Facebook announced today that, from the beginning of next year, it would no longer serve targeted ads based on “sensitive” topics, such as those relating to gender, race, sexuality, religious identity or political stances.
Within these topics, regarding ad material, are things like “same-sex marriage”, “LGBT culture”, religious holidays, “Health causes” and so on. At this point, just about everyone knows that Facebook/Meta’s prime directive is ad revenue, so narrowing its scope like this must have taken a lot of ruminating.
Facebook tapers targeting
In case you didn’t know, targeted advertising is Facebook’s main source of income, and how it targets users is, in part, why it’s been making headlines all year. The social media goliath can pull info from your profile, such as age, location, gender, etc., and suggest ads to you based on the demographics you fall into.
Furthermore, Facebook looks at your account’s interests, through the posts and pages you interact with, to glean even more information on you. This is where it finds out stuff like your religious or political stances, or your sexual orientation or socio-cultural interests. The result is a bit of a feedback loop where you keep getting recommended the same ads and content based on your interests, which is no doubt convenient at times but does leave users boxed up into divided corners of the internet.
Facebook seems aware of the fact that the optics on its ad-tracking practices aren’t particularly good, and this looks like a move towards improving its public image. Collaborating with “experts”, the social media platform has determined that targeted advertising making use of the aforementioned “sensitive” information might do more harm to users than good for advertisers.
But the upshot of this is that it may hamper certain non-profits’ abilities to reach out to the groups they’re trying to help. Facebook’s confident in the decision though.
“We feel confident that we can evolve our ads system to meet the needs of everyone we serve.” See? Told you.