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Photo Illustration by Thiago Prudencio/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Meta, the parent company to Facebook, on Tuesday said that starting January 19, it will no longer allow advertisers to select terms for ad targeting related to sensitive identifying traits, such as race, ethnicity, political affiliation, religion, or sexual orientation.

Why it matters: It's one of the more dramatic moves that the social media company has taken to minimize manipulation on its platform by advertisers.

Details: The new ban will apply to all of the apps owned by Meta, including Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and Facebook's Audience Network.

  • Examples of topics related to sexual orientation and religious practices that will be banned from being used to target ads include terms like "same-sex marriage," “LGBT culture," Catholic Church” and “Jewish holidays."
  • Any topic or term related to political beliefs, social issues, advocacy causes, as well as political organizations and figures, will also be banned.
  • The company will also prohibit ads targeted around certain health causes, such as terms like lung cancer awareness and chemotherapy.

Be smart: Critics have been calling on Meta to do more to address ways that advertisers use micro-targeting to either manipulate or neglect certain populations for years.

  • Earlier this year, it blocked ads from being targeted to users under the age of 18. In the past, it's settled with civil rights groups over housing discrimination ads.
  • In a blog post, Meta VP of product marketing for ads Graham Mudd acknowledged that the changes are being made to "address feedback from civil rights experts, policymakers and other stakeholders on the importance of preventing advertisers from abusing the targeting options we make available."

Between the lines: Mudd notes that the topics Meta is banning are specifically catered to the types of things people engage with on its platform, not their physical characteristics or personal attributes.

  • He said the company is committed to helping small businesses, non-profits, and advocacy groups reach their target audiences using tools like geographic targeting, and "lookalike" audiences, or audience segments that can be targeted to people that are likely to have the same types of interests as the banned targeting parameter.

The big picture: Meta has long argued that ads should be protected as a part of free speech, and as a result, has been hesitant to remove political or issue advertising.

  • "The decision to remove these Detailed Targeting options was not easy and we know this change may negatively impact some businesses and organizations," he wrote.

What to watch: Any time Meta makes changes to its ads policies, advocacy groups will argue that the changes will make it harder for people to target users with good messages.

  • Acknowledging that concern, Mudd wrote, "Like many of our decisions, this was not a simple choice and required a balance of competing interests where there was advocacy in both directions."

.

Go deeper

Roblox sues YouTuber over “terrorist threats”

Photo Illustration by Thiago Prudêncio/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Roblox Corporation is suing a YouTuber for breach of contract and fraud.

Details: Social gaming platform Roblox is seeking $1,650,000 in damages against content creator Benjamin Robert Simon ("Ruben Sim"), alleging that he is the leader of a "cybermob" and "commits and encourages unlawful acts designed to injure Roblox and its users."

17 mins ago - Politics & Policy

GOP fights itself on shutdown politics

Reporters question Senate Minority Whip John Thune before the Republican Party's weekly lunch on Tuesday. Photo: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

GOP leaders on Capitol Hill are scrambling to reach a deal with a bloc of 15 Senate Republicans threatening a government shutdown to force a fight over the Biden administration's vaccine mandates.

Why it matters: The push to defund the mandates — by holding the short-term government funding bill hostageis largely symbolic, and highly controversial within the Republican Party. A shutdown as early as midnight Friday could trigger everything from national park closures to delays in receiving Social Security checks.

Stacey Abrams launches second campaign for Georgia governor

Photo: Eze Amos/Getty Images

Stacey Abrams, voting rights activist and former 2018 candidate for Georgia governor, is running for the position again in 2022. Abrams would be the first Black female governor in the country.

Why it matters: Abrams caught national attention in 2018 by narrowly losing an election to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in a state held firmly by the GOP for nearly two decades.