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Facebook bows to WA state pressure to remove “discriminatory” ad filters

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State Attorney General Bob Ferguson 

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 that will force Facebook to "make significant changes to its advertising platform by removing the ability of third-party advertisers to exclude ethnic and religious minorities, immigrants, LGBTQ individuals, and other protected groups from seeing their ads.

The AG's office of Washington state joined a chorus of unhappy—and litigious—Facebook users in late 2016 after 

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 revealed how easy it was for Facebook advertisers to discriminate against users who were defined by "ethnic affinities." These were labeled with clear demographics like African-American, Asian-American, and Hispanic, and ProPublica's report pointed out that this was a clear violation of the 1968 Fair Housing Act.

The Tuesday announcement confirmed that this report inspired AG Ferguson's office to launch an investigation in November 2016, which began with the purchase of 20 fake ads on Facebook. These ads ran the gamut of content types, including "nightclubs, restaurants, lending, insurance, employment, and apartment rentals" so that Ferguson could determine whether or not specific audiences would be blocked from seeing the ads and were therefore "unaware of the opportunities in the advertisements."

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