On Tuesday, Nov. 9, Meta announced that its social media platform Facebook would remove political, religious and other ads that “relate to themes individuals may view as sensitive” starting January 19, 2022. This development is a significant shift for the company’s golden goose, its advertising division, which accounted for roughly 98 percent of its global income in 2020.
The adjustment was done in response to complaints from civil rights activists and policymakers about advertisers exploiting Facebook’s targeting tools, according to Graham Mudd, Meta’s vice president of marketing for advertisements. That said, this isn’t the first time Meta has removed targeting options; it removed 5,000 options to prevent misuse in 2018.
Causes, organizations, or prominent figures relating to health, race or ethnicity, political affiliation, religion, or sexual orientation, for example, are examples of sensitive themes, according to Mudd.
He emphasized that the company’s policy change did not alter targeting options based on users’ physical or personal features. Rather, these alternatives take into account how consumers engage with material on Meta platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger. (Read: Facebook will now remove harassment, sexualized content targeting celebrities, public figures)
“The decision to remove these Detailed Targeting options was not easy and we know this change may negatively impact some businesses and organizations,” stated Mudd. “Some of our advertising partners have expressed concerns about these targeting options going away because of their ability to help generate positive societal change, while others understand the decision to remove them.”
Meta also said that, in addition to targeted restrictions, it will give users more power and allow them to block advertising for certain types of content, such as gambling and weight loss.
According to a report by the New York Times, several digital ad-buying experts believe this could hurt nonprofit and public-interest organizations that rely on ad targeting for fundraising.
For the Philippines, Facebook removing political ads comes at a crucial time where social media platforms, such as Facebook, now form a large part of the campaigns of those running for office in the 2022 elections. The change could force local campaign managers to have to rethink their online campaigns.
That said, Meta’s new policy does not preclude advertisers from targeting consumers on the company’s platforms. Meta’s ad marketing vice president, Mudd, stated that the company was committed to assisting small businesses, organizations, and advocacy groups in reaching their target audiences, and that they still had tools at their disposal.
Whether or not this also applies to political parties and their candidates, however, is as of yet unknown.
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