Facebook’s Ethnic Affinities.


You can’t scuff a toe these days without overturning something unsavoury when it comes to Facebook. ProPublica has found FB’s ethnic affinities, and how their advertising service allows you to exclude said ethnic affinities, which are not at all the same thing as race, no, no. As usual, FB dodges and runs away from providing an actual answer, as they habitually do when caught once again with their metaphorical pants around their ankles.

…The ad we purchased was targeted to Facebook members who were house hunting and excluded anyone with an “affinity” for African-American, Asian-American or Hispanic people. (Here’s the ad itself.)

When we showed Facebook’s racial exclusion options to a prominent civil rights lawyer John Relman, he gasped and said, “This is horrifying. This is massively illegal. This is about as blatant a violation of the federal Fair Housing Act as one can find.”


Facebook says its policies prohibit advertisers from using the targeting options for discrimination, harassment, disparagement or predatory advertising practices.

“We take a strong stand against advertisers misusing our platform: Our policies prohibit using our targeting options to discriminate, and they require compliance with the law,” said Steve Satterfield, privacy and public policy manager at Facebook. “We take prompt enforcement action when we determine that ads violate our policies.”

Satterfield said it’s important for advertisers to have the ability to both include and exclude groups as they test how their marketing performs. For instance, he said, an advertiser “might run one campaign in English that excludes the Hispanic affinity group to see how well the campaign performs against running that ad campaign in Spanish. This is a common practice in the industry.”

He said Facebook began offering the “Ethnic Affinity” categories within the past two years as part of a “multicultural advertising” effort.

Satterfield added that the “Ethnic Affinity” is not the same as race — which Facebook does not ask its members about. Facebook assigns members an “Ethnic Affinity” based on pages and posts they have liked or engaged with on Facebook.

When we asked why “Ethnic Affinity” was included in the “Demographics” category of its ad-targeting tool if it’s not a representation of demographics, Facebook responded that it plans to move “Ethnic Affinity” to another section.

Facebook declined to answer questions about why our housing-categories ad excluding minority groups was approved 15 minutes after we placed the order.

The full story is at ProPublica.


  1. rq says

    But but but Giliell “white” is not an ethnic affinity, it’s a race! There’s so much diversity in white culture, you can’t just put them under a single label! I mean, there’s American, and ummmm uhh English annnnd ummmm Poooolisshhh? annnd… a lot more!

    Apparently everything is for whites. Such discrimination, much bigotry!
    I don’t really have anything coherent to say about this, no.

  2. Crimson Clupeidae says

    Ohferfuckssake….. The wierd thing about FB seems to be that Zuckerberg seems like a halfway decent (read: not complete asshole for a white guy) person, but their actual policies seem to be run by some regressive middle eastern regime….

    I may be completely wrong about Zuckerberg, feel free to school me if so.

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