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Photo: Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has reached a historic settlement with Facebook over advertising practices that allegedly discriminated against minorities.

Why it matters: As part of five settlements totaling nearly $5 million, Facebook has agreed to make major changes to its ad platform that will help curb discrimination against certain people when it comes to employment, housing and credit ads.

Background: A series of investigative reports over the past two years have uncovered ways that users can abuse Facebook's ad platform in order to discriminate against some populations, mainly people of color, when it comes to certain marketing for certain opportunities, like housing, employment or credit.

  • Following the reports, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) filed a complaint against Facebook Friday under the Fair Housing Act, charging that the social network allows advertisers to illegally discriminate in housing ads by excluding some groups from seeing the ads.
  • Shortly after, Facebook removed over 5,000 ad-targeting options to prevent that capability.
  • In September, the ACLU and its law firm, representing the Communications Workers of America and several individual job seekers, filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Facebook and a number of employers, alleging that they had unlawfully discriminated against certain populations via their ad targeting platform.

The details: As part of the settlement, Facebook will pay $5 million to several groups, including the ACLU, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) and Communications Workers of America (CWA). It will also take three new steps to prevent advertisers from engaging in unlawful discrimination around employment, housing, and credit ads on Facebook and its subsidiaries (Instagram, Whatsapp, Messenger, etc.).

  1. Facebook is creating a new advertising process, specifically for marketers that are purchasing ads around employment, housing and credit. The new process will guide ad buyers through a separate portal that will certify that advertisers understand the policies and legal specifications around targeting population segments. As part of this process, Facebook is further cutting the number of options advertisers can use to target ads.
  2. Facebook will set up an archive for housing ads, which could be similar to the ad archive it built around politics. Once built, anyone searching for a housing ad in the U.S. will be able to search all housing ads active on Facebook, regardless of whether the ads are targeting that specific person. Facebook will start testing this feature by the end of the year.
  3. Facebook says it will continue to roll out education and certification requirements globally around all of its advertising policies.

The big picture: Unlike television or radio, internet platforms that sell ads aren't regulated. Lawsuits and media pressure have forced platforms to become more transparent about how their ad platforms work and take additional steps to prevent abuse by bad actors.

Our thought bubble: Facebook and other tech companies will likely continue to innovate around ad transparency and fairness as more examples of abuse are uncovered.

Go deeper

10 mins ago - Health

CDC panel recommends Pfizer boosters for high-risk individuals, people 65 and up

Photo: Marco Bello/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A key panel at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday recommended the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus booster shots for people 65 years old and older, as well as those at high risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: The approval is the near-final step in making the booster shots available to tens of millions of Americans, and comes a day after the FDA approved Pfizer boosters for the two groups. CDC director Rochelle Walensky is expected to accept the recommendation.

DHS temporarily suspends use of horse patrol in Del Rio

U.S. Border Patrol agents watch as Haitian immigrant families cross the Rio Grande from Mexico into Del Rio, Texas on Sept. 23, 2021. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security on Thursday temporarily suspended the use of horse patrol in Del Rio, Texas a DHS spokesperson confirmed.

Why it matters: The suspension comes after images showing border patrol agents whipping at and charging their horses at migrants surfaced earlier in the week, prompting widespread criticism of the Biden administration's handling of the crisis at the border.

Southwest drought is worst on record, NOAA finds

In a stark new report, a team of NOAA and independent researchers found the 2020-2021 drought across the Southwest is the worst in the instrumental record, which dates to 1895.

Why it matters: They also concluded that global warming is making it far more severe, primarily by increasing average temperatures, which boosts evaporation.