For $25, you can target Facebook users based on race and sexual orientation

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$25 bucks buys a lot of hate.


Zuckerberg 2020


I was trying to imagine a product category where you might want to use these filters. One I came up with was radio collars for hunting dogs. Very few people buying those are gay persons of color. But Facebook offers so many combinations of metrics for targeting customers, so those would never be the best filters to use.

I just can’t come up with a non-nefarious reason to filter or target based on these characteristics.


Publishers, especially websites, seem to target me on FB all the time based on what FB perceives to be my race and sexual orientation. Ads and “Pages you might be interested in” for me includes things like VerySmartBrothas (African-American interest), The Advocate and Out (gay interest), Subaru (lbgt interest, lol), the local Japanese American Cultural Center (ethnic affinity, =race?), etc.

Of course, FB also seems pretty sure sometimes that I’m a suburban mom, so ¯_(ツ)_/¯


I don’t quite see the problem here. These are advertisers? So if Logo or BET (as examples) want to send targeted ads, should they send ads to people who are their primary audience, or to EVERYONE, with much less likelihood of the per eye clicking on said advertisement?


One of the things I like about BoingBoing is that it regularly gives me reasons to be glad I never joined Facebook.*

[* disclaimer: even if you don’t have an account you’re still on FB]


I would be more frightened by this if Facebook didn’t think I was African American (I’m not).


Facebook Ad targeting is a cesspool, and I say this as someone who has worked with their API. They are so blinded by the golden glow of profits that they only care that advertisers believe it.

So how did they get the idea that you are African American? I honestly don’t know, but I have a sneaking suspicion you once said so many, many years ago and they simply believed it. Or you liked groups that they think only African Americans like. They don’t really care, they just want to sell ads.


What is that and how do you see it?

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Go to Settings/Ads/Your Information/Your Categories

I didn’t know about these settings till I saw @samba00 's comment . The assumptions made about me are accurate in a half ass way. FB thinks I’m Hispanic, I’m not, but I’m flattered and I wannabe. And it thinks my dominant language is Spanish. It’s not, but again I’m flattered and I wish. I do know why they have made the foregoing assumptions.

They think my politics are “Very Liberal.” I wonder if that is the furthest left that goes. If not, I’m insulted.

There is more going on than they are showing. For instance, I subscribe to a lot of sailing and thoroughbred racing pages. FB thinks I’m very high net worth. But there’s nothing in the settings showing that. I’m not very high or even high net worth. But I get ads for tax shelters and investments open only to qualified investors.


Assuming that the user even has a race or sexual orientation. What if you don’t? Do they make one up?

I suspect it is some combination of music I like, my politics (I like a lot of anti-racist groups) and events I attend (for instance, I go to the Afropunk festival every year). To be fair, it’s probably safe to assume that ads targeted towards African Americans may interest me.

On the other hand, with their vaunted facial recognition, you’d think they would’ve gone through my photos and figured it out.


FB indicates that I’m Hispanic b/c my “activity aligns with Hispanic multi-cultural affinity.” Whatever the fuck that means. FB is silent on my sexual preference. This, strangely, makes me sad, as if their algorithm believes me to be a non-sexual being.


If (facebook) ads were only about companies hocking their for-sale-wares, that would one one thing. As we saw last year, “ads” are not only about commerce.

edit: see also:


Cool thanks. Some of these categories are odd:

Close Friends of Men with a Birthday in 7-30 days (no women I guess :frowning: )

Close friends of people with birthdays in a month (isn’t everyone?)

Almost everything on there relates to what I use, not who I am. I am guess because I don’t like a lot of stuff.

Pegged this, I guess - US politics (moderate)

I am, no kidding, “Close Friends of Expats” (sic). This road may lead to Associates with Undesirables.


Thanks for pointing that out. Interesting to see how they classify me.

Apparently they think I’m a frequent international traveler and an international traveler who returned home 1 week ago. Last time I left my country was 2013, but I do use an IPv6 tunnel broker with an endpoint in the US, so that might explain that.

They also got my profession and field, but think in addition to IT, I work in Administration, Management, and Production (defined as miners/blacksmiths/lumberjacks).

Most of the rest seems to be fine-grained categorizations of how I access facebook and the devices I use to do so.

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  1. BET targeting their ads does not have the same impact as, for example, KKK recruiters targeting their ads.

  2. Apply this technology to advertisements for jobs or housing. Instant segregation.


I took the above screen shot about six months ago and I was “Close Friends with Expats” too. I just checked and I no longer am in that category, though I actually have more friends who live outside the country now.