Facebook Limits Some Ad Targeting; People Still Won't Be Happy
from the no-one-will-ever-be-happy-with-facebook dept
I still think that the power of targeted advertising is somewhat overblown (and that neither Google nor Facebook want to admit that). Relatedly, I think that bad targeted advertising creeps people out way too much, and that’s a problem. However, given all that, Facebook’s newly announced plans to remove certain forms of targeting from its targeted advertising program seems kind of weird.
Starting January 19, 2022 we will remove Detailed Targeting options that relate to topics people may perceive as sensitive, such as options referencing causes, organizations, or public figures that relate to health, race or ethnicity, political affiliation, religion, or sexual orientation. Examples include:
- Health causes (e.g., ?Lung cancer awareness?, ?World Diabetes Day?, ?Chemotherapy?)
- Sexual orientation (e.g., ?same-sex marriage? and ?LGBT culture?)
- Religious practices and groups (e.g., ?Catholic Church? and ?Jewish holidays?)
- Political beliefs, social issues, causes, organizations, and figures
It is important to note that the interest targeting options we are removing are not based on people?s physical characteristics or personal attributes, but instead on things like people?s interactions with content on our platform. However, we?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. We routinely review, update and remove targeting options to simplify our ads system, provide more value for advertisers and people, and reduce the potential for abuse.
While I can clearly see ways in which that kind of ad targeting could be abused, it also seems somewhat arbitrary that these limits are now there. And, you can clearly see many reasons why people should be allowed to target advertising on these kinds of topics. For example, advertising religious items to people practicing those religions seems perfectly reasonable.
We discussed this a bit before as it relates to a proposed bill to remove Section 230 from targeted advertising on some of these topics: there often are times when it’s useful to be able to target to such narrow groups. And yes, even if it can sometimes be abused, is that worth completely tossing out the good created by finding the appropriate audience?
And, of course, the simple fact is that no one will ever be happy with Facebook’s decisions. As it notes in the announcement itself, advertisers don’t like this move, and Facebook critics will claim it doesn’t go nearly far enough. This just seems like a semi-arbitrary way of Facebook to dip its toes in the water of saying “we’re going to limit this stuff that you insist we only do because of our nefarious intent” and it’s not going to stop anyone from insisting Facebook still has nefarious intent.