Facebook transforms the advertising algorithm – economy

Two humans. Two smartphones. Again a lot of advertising in the Facebook app. “Have you seen the job posting? »He said while scrolling the screen. This is a high paying job, the ad has appeared several times. She, on the other hand, who sits next to him, scrolls and scrolls – but finds nothing, despite the two otherwise having the same qualifications and profiles. As a man, he fits the target group to which the advertisement is directed, but as a woman, this is not the case. Meta – as the company behind Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp recently called it – wants to make this principle, known as targeting, less discriminatory. But as is so often the case when a company refines its products, the real problem runs deeper. And things can only get worse.

From next January, advertisers will no longer be able to select target groups that subdivide users according to their state of health, their political, religious or sexual orientation. Meta’s systems automatically derive this information from the content with which users deal. An ad that only women between the ages of 25 and 35 could see could still run online, but not an ad just for Communist lesbians of that age.

Political organizations could no longer reach their target groups

People continue to report how limited they feel to certain intimate traits through ad targeting. Anyone who has recently been grieving in the family will see tons of gravestones. At least “sensitive” personal information should be excluded from your own advertising profile in the future.

Advertisers may need to resort to broader targeting – and therefore Facebook’s delivery system. The less detail users choose for themselves, the more this system uses artificial intelligence to automatically determine which people are most receptive to which ads. What always happens when you leave such decisions to the AI ​​system: they reinforce existing stereotypes. The Algorithm Watch organization showed in an experiment that Facebook shows jobs for truck drivers much more to men, while ads for childcare workers are more likely to show women. In the future, advertisers will therefore be less able to discriminate against themselves, they will allow more discrimination. Fully automatic.

And there is another problem. Political organizations fear that the envisaged changes will make their work more difficult. The Campact organization, for example, claims to use Facebook’s advertising system to draw people’s attention to ongoing campaigns about their interests in certain topics, such as “Fridays for Future” or “Christopher Street Day”. It is quite possible that both will in the future fall into the category of what Facebook intends to call political and, in this regard, “sensitive”. Transgender Europe said it urged Facebook to “ensure that LGBTIQ activists and organizations have a way to reach their members and communities.” The abbreviation LGBTIQ stands for sexual minorities.

EU wants to take action against targeting

“We know this change could have a negative impact on some businesses and organizations,” writes Meta. The decision was not easy. Nonetheless, the company can now claim to be doing something in the fight against discrimination and targeting, which many people hate. He could use it after the recent revelations of unscrupulous business practices by whistleblower Frances Haugen.

Meta may also want to anticipate impending regulation. A European law on digital services, which also aims to limit the possibilities of “personalized advertising”, is on the home stretch. The plenary session of the European Parliament is due to debate next month.

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