Meta deploys AI-powered ad targeting technology to reduce discrimination

Meta implements an advertising system against discrimination. However, we will have to wait to assess its effectiveness.

Meta is now speaking out following its commitment to reduce advertising discrimination through technology. The Menlo Park company is now deploying a Variance reduction system (VRS) in the United States, which helps ensure that the actual audience for an ad more accurately matches the qualified target. In other words, that it does not target certain cultural groups unfairly.

Once enough people have seen an ad, a machine learning system compares their demographics with those the advertisers intended to reach. The algorithm then adjusts the exchange value of the ad (id isthe probability that you see it) to show it more or less often to certain groups.

VRS continues to function while the ad plays. And yes, Meta is aware of potential privacy concerns. The US giant claims that this system is unable to know an individual’s estimated age, gender or ethnicity. Differential privacy technology also introduces “noise” to prevent the AI ​​from learning any individual demographic information over time.

This anti-discrimination method will initially only apply to housing advertisements. VRS will then be expanded to credit and job ads in the US over the next year, Meta says.

However, it will be necessary to wait to judge its effectiveness.

This feature comes after more than a year of work with the US Department of Justice and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Meta (then Facebook) was accused in 2019 of promoting discrimination in housing ads by allowing advertisers to exclude certain targets, including those protected by Fair Housing Act. In the June 2022 deal, the social media giant said it would roll out VRS and drop the “Special Ad Audience” tool believed to be responsible for this discrimination. Meta previously limited ad targeting in 2019 in response to another accusation.

Meta is not alone in trying to limit advertising discrimination in this way. Google has banned advertisers from doing so, as well as ads about credit, housing and jobs, since 2020. However, the technology used to combat this discrimination is relatively new. It wouldn’t be surprising to see other web services implement similar systems, assuming of course that Meta’s solution proves to be effective. To be continued !

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