Impact of Facebook Civil Rights Audit Update for Automotive Advertisers

July 9, 2019

By: Roman Sandler

Impact of Facebook Civil Rights Audit Update for Automotive Advertisers -

This past Sunday, Facebook published the second of three updates on its Civil Rights Audit. The audit was launched last year in response to increasing scrutiny around the company’s content moderation and advertising targeting practices. The result of the audit involves Facebook updating its practices to better protect the civil rights of its user base.

One of the areas that Facebook will be updating is its Advertising Targeting practices, and here’s why:

“Civil rights advocates have long maintained that Facebook’s ad targeting features enabled unlawful discrimination by allowing housing, employment, and credit advertisers to include (or exclude) people from seeing ads based on gender, race, age, and other protected classes. Because advertising is increasingly moving to web-based systems like Facebook, civil rights groups are focusing on platforms as key forums to help eliminate bias, ensure fairness and create equal access to crucial economic and social opportunities.”

The first audit update from December 2018 identified changes that needed to be made to Facebook’s advertising platform. Those changes include:

  1. Removing thousands of targeting terms that could be perceived as describing users’ race, color, national origin, sexual orientation, veteran or military status, or disability status.
  2. Requiring all advertisers to affirmatively commit to adhering to Facebook’s non-discrimination policy.
  3. Creating a library of active ads so people may see ads even if they weren’t targeted to them.

What’s Changing?

It’s important to note that advertising targeting will not be limited for all advertisers on the platform. The changes are focused on advertisers running credit, housing or employment ads on Facebook; and is being done in accordance with the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA). As part of the implementation for the restricted advertising system, advertisers will have to indicate whether they are advertising anything that falls under the ECOA before they can run any ads. If they fail to self identify, Facebook plans to have a backup system to detect key identifiers and automatically route the advertiser to the restricted system. 

To comply with the ECOA, Facebook will remove the ability to target by age, gender, zip code, and potentially thousands of other targeting categories for all advertisers that fall under that regulation. Location targeting minimums will be updated to a radius of 15 miles for cities, towns and pin drops; and Lookalike Audiences will be replaced with Special Ad Audiences with limitations on targeting based on gender, age, zip codes, and other protected categories. 

What This Means For Automotive Dealers

So you may be wondering how or why this would impact dealerships and automotive marketers? According to Facebook, any ads that lead to a webpage that contains credit, housing, and employment information fall under this new system. Since dealership websites contain finance information, including subprime vs. prime credit offers and information on loans then you are subject to the ECOA. Plus, if you want to target specific audiences with ads that include special financing offers then odds are high that they will be flagged as well.

That means Lookalike models for finding new customers through Facebook will be less precise since they won’t utilize age, gender, zip codes and other signals for audience building. Fortunately, CRM & 3rd party data are still safe to use for Facebook ad campaigns. You will still be able to target your customers with custom messages using your CRM data and will still be able to leverage 3rd party data to target auto-intenders.

When is this Happening?

According to the Civil Rights Audit, Facebook Ads Manager will be redirected to the new system by September 30, 2019. Facebook is already rolling updates out ahead of schedule so the full implementation in Ads Manager will be completed in September. Advertisers who attempt to create housing employment or credit ads through any other company system will be redirected to the new restricted advertising system by December 31, 2019.

What’s Next?

We’ll continue to monitor this situation and provide updates as they become available. If you have any additional questions you can follow the PureCars Blog and the Facebook Newsroom 


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