BY   Gillian B. White    PUB   The Atlantic 

The company’s platform lets advertisers exclude people of certain races from seeing their content. That’s a serious problem when it comes to promotions such as housing, credit, and jobs.

With more than 1.5 billion users, Facebook has become one of the most powerful, highly visible platforms on the internet. It’s no wonder then that so many advertisers clamor for space on the social-media site. But a recent investigation from ProPublica found that Facebook may be allowing those advertisers to discriminate based on race.

Facebook’s ability to let advertisers target a specific audience—for instance, women between the ages of 25 and 34 with young children—is its primary strength. More and more advertisers count on being able to identify, and market to, very specific groups. But Facebook’s advertising system not only allows marketers to choose who they most want to see their ads—it also allows them choose entire groups who will never see their ads.

When placing an ad on Facebook, advertisers can explicitly exclude lots of groups, including people with any given educational level, financial status, political affiliation, and—perhaps most disturbingly—“ethnic affinity.”

Facebook (stylized as facebook) is an American for-profit corporation and online social media and social networking service based in Menlo Park, California, United States. The Facebook website was launched on February 4, 2004, by Mark Zuckerberg, along with fellow Harvard College students and roommates, Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz, and Chris Hughes.

The founders had initially limited the website’s membership to Harvard students; however, later they expanded it to higher education institutions in the Boston area, the Ivy League schools, and Stanford University. Facebook gradually added support for students at various other universities, and eventually to high school students as well. Since 2006, anyone age 13 and older has been allowed to become a registered user of Facebook, though variations exist in the minimum age requirement, depending on applicable local laws.[10] The Facebook name comes from the face book directories often given to United States university students.

Facebook, Inc. held its initial public offering (IPO) in February 2012, and began selling stock to the public three months later, reaching an original peak market capitalization of $104 billion. On July 13, 2015, Facebook became the fastest company in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index to reach a market cap of $250 billion.[12] Facebook has more than 1.65 billion monthly active users as of March 31, 2016. As of April 2016, Facebook was the most popular social networking site in the world, based on the number of active user accounts.

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