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.

Filed Under: , , , , , , ,
Companies: facebook

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Facebook Limits Some Ad Targeting; People Still Won't Be Happy”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
TKnarr (profile) says:

I think most people’s problem with targeted advertising isn’t the targeting itself so much as how it’s done, that it’s based on tracking what each person does everywhere they go and assuming that the conclusions drawn from that wide net are of more importance than what the person’s doing right now (what the web page they’re on is about). Targeting advertising of religious material towards followers of that religion is great, but if I’m looking at a web site listing cars for sale I’m probably not wanting to see ads for religious material no matter how closely I fit the profile for the advertisers of such or how much religion shows up in my web activity the rest of the time. Either give the web sites on which ads appear more control over what kinds of ads appear, or start making site content the most important criteria in selecting what ads appear regardless of what the advertisers may want. The advertisers may be the customer, but if your customers piss off your product badly enough you won’t have any product left to sell.

Worse, the sort of targeting done today is a lagging indicator: it shows up consumer interest too late to do anything but annoy the user. If I’m looking to buy a used car, you have about 30 seconds to detect that and start getting ads in front of me. If you wait until you’ve seen a pattern of me visiting used-car web sites to start showing me ads, chances are I’m in the process of buying one and the ads are just annoying now since I won’t be in the market for a car again for several years. Targeting based on the web pages I’m visiting right now would’ve gotten far better results in that kind of very common case.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: targeting = tracking

agree, it’s the privacy issue that concerns most users.

And even with that wide concern, most people don’t realize how heavily they are tracked on the internet –websites like Facebook and Amazon quietly connect your little web device to dozens of other internet entities.

the effectiveness of web advertising (targeted or not) is a huge unknown.
same age old issue as with radio & TV advertising — nobody has ever objectively figured out how cost-effective radio/TV advertising is.

the Nielsen and Arbitron ratings have always been controversial — with broadcasters often suspecting inaccurate ratings and no clear link to bottom line company profits.

measuring clicks on internet ads is more precise, but still no good way to measure the effect on sales.

(old corporate joke >
CEO to Board of Directors: "Gentlemen, we are totally wasting half of our $100 Million Advertising Budget — but we don’t know which half !)

Anonymous Coward says:

If people go to sports websites they maybe might interested in buying sports merch, gaming websites they might buy games etc
Older people watch certain programs or channels , young people watch certain programs like scí fí marvel TV shows so the ads on those channels are Tailored to the target audience products that are used by everyone beer cigarettes jeans can be advertised on almost any channel
Maybe Facebook is trying to headoff future criticism. From regulators as the ad market comes under more scrutiny

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

"Tailored" advertising to a target audience category (sports, gaming, etc) is much different than tailoring to a specific person.

and Web advertisers have no way of knowing if specific advertising actions directly caused actual product purchases (or if purchases that did occur would have happened anyway, without the specific advertising action used)

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...