How Facebook Changed its Advertising Rules for Fair Housing

Facebook has, over the years, been used as an advertising platform for marketing campaigns and targeted advertising. You can create targeted audiences for the business you are running. Nonetheless, creating highly targeted ads could be illegal as you could end up breaking the law, especially if the campaigns discriminate against specific groups. 

The Federal Housing Department Slammed Facebook with a discrimination lawsuit in March 2019, which forced Facebook to make certain changes to the way advertisers put up their ad campaigns for specific industries. 

Read on to learn how Facebook changed its advertising rules for fair housing. We also cover some of those changes they’ve had to implement to ensure equity and fairness. 

Facebook Special Ad Categories

Housing Opportunity

Ads that link directly or promote a housing opportunity or related service, and that includes but not limited to listing for the rental or sale of an apartment or home. That category also excludes homeowners’ insurance, mortgage loan, home equity, or appraisal services. You can include an equal opportunity housing logo and slogan to differentiate the ads as non-discriminatory. 

Employment Opportunity

Ads that directly link or promote an employment opportunity, which includes part or full-time jobs, professional certification programs, or internships, fall under the employment opportunity ad category. Ads that fall within this category include fairs/job boards, ads on perks of a company, or aggregation services, regardless of a certain job offer. 

Credit Opportunity

Ads that directly link or promote a credit opportunity include but are not limited to auto loans, credit card offers, business loan services, long-term financing, and mortgage loans. That includes brand ads for credit cards, which include certain credit offers. 

After Facebook implemented changes to its advertising rules, most of their targeting is restricted. What you can do is let the ad appeal to your audience and use custom audiences and retargeting. 

What Were the Allegations Against Facebook?

The National Fair Housing Alliance and three affiliated groups filed a lawsuit in late Match against Facebook. According to them, Facebook enabled house discrimination by enabling real estate advertisers, which included agents and brokers, to do away with specific audiences. 

They accused Facebook of discrimination based on family status and gender. According to them, this violates the Fair Housing Act that prohibits discrimination based on national origin, color, race, sex, religion, or family status on rental advertisements and home sales. 

According to Fred, an executive director of the New York-based Fair Housing Justice Center, Facebook enabled a landlord or real estate company to discriminate by targeting housing advertisements to exclude certain populations. He claims that Facebook does this in a discrete manner, such that way, people have no idea they’ve been excluded based on sex or family status. 

The Department of Housing and Urban Development accused Facebook of going against the Housing Act by enabling advertisers to use the space to exclude and target people based on given criteria. 

Discrimination is not the only thing Facebook has been accused of. They have been accused of allowing advertisers to target groups of people identified as Nazi sympathizers and Jew-haters. Facebook is also accused of allowing fake Russian accounts to buy ads targeting American uses to promote political divisions. 

There have been accusations of job discrimination, where some ads were shown to men and not women in male-dominated fields or young users. Facebook also limits targeting categories, which means advertisers won’t exclude certain groups of people or people who’ve joined a group on soccer or black hair care. 

However, all that has changed as Facebook announced changes to targeting for credit vendors, employment, and housing. On 1st July Facebook introduced its new targeting limitations to housing, employment, and credit advertisers. 

What Changes Did Facebook Introduce?

The changes are noticeable when you start creating a new campaign or when you make edits at the campaign level. You’ll be asked to identify yourself as housing, employment, or credit advertiser on a new box under the title insertion section. 

Once you get to the social ad category checkbox, you’ll find vague information about the limitations and be asked to categorize the campaign as housing, credit, or employment. 

Facebook, at this point, instead of asking you to follow non-discriminatory policies like in the past, the platform removes your ability to target people depending on their personal attributes like age, color, gender, and more. 

Below is a list of changes you’ll notice on the ad set targeting level and the alternatives available.

Zip Code Targeting

You can no longer exclude or target people based on the zip code. However, there is an alternative where you can use radius targeting, but with a 15-mile radius minimum around the address, city, or pin drop that you indicate in the targeted locations settings. 

Detailed Targeting Features

Targeting options are limited, like how Facebook shows in their initial information box at the campaign level. Facebook didn’t mention the targeting options. What happens at the ad set level is that all demographic and behavior targeting options are no longer there, which means you’re only left with interest targeting options. 

Age and Gender Targeting

Age and gender appear as fixed settings, unlike usual selectors. You can no longer target people based on their age or gender as this is regarded as discrimination against specific people. 

Saved Audiences

You no longer have access to saved audiences as Facebook has removed this option. That is meant to prevent the use of any created audiences that you previously had, which includes discriminatory targeting. 

Look-a-Like Audiences

You can’t create a look-a-like audience on Facebook as they use demographic data of website visitors and current business customers as this helps you identify similar audiences. That equals to discrimination against specific people based on demographics. Nevertheless, if you haven’t been using a look-a-like audience, this won’t affect you. 

As an alternative, Facebook introduced a different custom audience for Special Ad Categories, also known as Special Ad Audiences. This audience works like a look-a-like audience, and the only difference is that instead of using demographic data, it uses internet behavior and interest. Facebook analyses the current customer’s internet patterns and interests to determine people with similar behaviors and interests that you can target. 

Facebook now has a separate advertising portal for creating credit ads, employment, ad housing ads. The change applies to Instagram and Messenger to prevent discrimination due to the targeting options. Also, Facebook now has a page where users can search and view all housing ads. That is in spite of whether the users have previously received housing ads in their feeds. 

Facebook also agrees to study the possibility of unplanned biases in algorithmic modeling on Facebook. They also agreed to meet with the council to allow them to monitor the implementation of these reforms being implemented.

The Effects of These Changes to Real Estate Marketers

 If you are a real estate marketer, these changes will have an impact on your campaigns. That’s because you won’t be able to target individuals based on their geographical location and age, which are some essential aspects of digital marketing. 

You won’t be specific about who the ads can reach. That means you may have reduced website traffic and budget inefficiency. 

Learning how to approach your Facebook ad strategy will come in handy if you want to maximize your budget. You’ll need to appeal to the person you’d like to attract with your images and text. That means your ads won’t have personal attributes listed because they won’t be approved by Facebook. 

Building a retargeting audience on Facebook is the only way to navigate through the set limitations. You can retarget your email subscribers, website visitors, people who watch your videos, and Facebook fans. 


How Facebook Changed its Advertising Rules for Fair Housing

If you are in real estate and you rely on Facebook ads for marketing campaigns and targeted advertising, you may have to adjust to the implemented changes. You can no longer create highly targeted ads as they are considered discriminating. Hopefully,  after reading this article, you can now use other methods to reach your target market. 

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