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Facebook Takes Action on Discrimination Complaints

After continuous allegations on Facebook ad platform for discrimination in its ads, the company decided to scrap 5000 options which tend to support it. The discrimination which was targeted towards particular religious and ethnic minority groups was continuously condemned by lawmakers and activists. On the other side, there are studies showing that Facebook users linking to the violent acts and terror attacks are increasing day by day. Anti-refugees and anti-immigrants were the main focus of the groups, and there were regular posts updated targeting them.

Move to address discrimination complaints

After the recent complaint from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) relating to the violation of the Fair Housing Act, Facebook announced that it is scrapping its options which relate to discrimination. After a repeated set of complaints from similar departments and activists, HUD made it serious by filing a lawsuit against Facebook.

Facebook tracks a user’s location, likes, race, preferred group, etc. With this information, the ads which are displayed are said to be customized to the users. By a test run by investigative journalists ads related to housing and employment including other federally related markets were placed as per the user’s background. This indicates the weak Facebook norms.

With this announcement, Facebook increases the limits for advertisers who can place their ads discriminating users on the basis of ethnicity and religion. Groups like Buddhism, Native American culture & Islamic culture will now be open to ads as opposed to the previous case where they were excluded by many advertisers.

Facebook was earlier accused of not addressing the problem of redlining, in which users belonging to certain zip codes were deprived of particular resources. After the company’s temporary ban last year relating to the discrimination tools, the present ban is announced to be permanent.

Spike in Anti-immigrant posts

An attack against immigrants and refugees in Germany showed that many Facebook users were linked to that act. The posts from such profiles and groups were more than just casual trolls and political opinions. The theme was anti-refugee and anti-immigrant which seemed to trigger attacks on these groups. This study showed the relation between the number of Facebook users & the number of anti-refugee posts with the number of terror attacks in a particular area. It was seen that terror attacks were high in those areas where anti-refugee users and posts were active. Facebook pages in Germany were chosen to test this relation which included the right-wing groups.

After several attempts of dissecting the pages, profiles & messages it was able to conclude that an increase in an approximate 13 percent was seen because of social media activity. The researchers admitted that social media is not primarily responsible for the attacks and hate-crime. However, they also established that social media could add fuel to the fire. The fact that increased terror attacks in a particular region and the high social media presence of that respective region go hand-in-hand was still questionable.

About the author

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Andrew Romans

Andrew Romans is a Silicon Valley-based venture capitalist at 7BC.VC and Rubicon Venture Capital as well as an author of two top-10 books on Venture Capital on Amazon and Masters of Blockchain.

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