Meta is changing ad targeting options across its platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, meaning businesses will no longer be able to direct ads to users of a specific race, political affiliation, or sexual orientation. The move comes after years of criticism concerning the company’s advertising algorithms, which have frequently been perceived as invasive.
The recently renamed company announced the changes in a blog post on Tuesday, noting that the “difficult decision” was driven by feedback from civil rights experts and policymakers. Set to take effect Jan. 19, Meta’s ad options will no longer offer Detailed Targeting concerning topics which “people may perceive as sensitive.” Examples include topics relating to health, race, politics, religion, or sexuality.
“[W]e’ve heard concerns from experts that targeting options like these could be used in ways that lead to negative experiences for people in underrepresented groups,” said Graham Mudd, Meta’s vice president of product marketing and ads.
The company stressed that users’ inclusion in a targeted topic group isn’t assessed by evaluating their physical characteristics, but rather analysing the content they interact with. Even so, many have found Facebook’s assumptions about them to be disturbingly, unnervingly nosy.
“This change impacts all Meta properties where advertisers can display ads, including Facebook/IG/Messenger and our audience network,” a Meta spokesperson told Mashable.
Meta acknowledged that the removal of topic targeting may adversely impact the ability of Facebook and Instagram’s advertisers to reach a relevant audience, but noted the changes don’t mean all targeted advertising will be removed entirely. Advertisers can still choose to target potential customers via their age, gender, location, inclusion on customer lists, and whether users have engaged with the advertiser’s posts in the past.
So Facebook’s advertising will still be vaguely creepy, but more like it’s lurking in your driveway than at your bedroom window.
Meta also plans to add more options to the list of categories users can choose to see fewer ads from. While you can currently opt to reduce the number of ads you see related to politics, parenting, and pets, early next year you will also be able to reduce the volume of ads served to you that concern issues such as gambling and weight loss. It’s a long overdue change that should hopefully help people struggling with addiction or disordered eating.