Facebook and Instagram will remove advert targeting options based on users’ interest in posts based on sexuality, the social media platforms’ parent company, Meta, has announced.

The move is part of a new policy to remove advert targeting options for topics deemed sensitive. Topics include political affiliation, ethnicity and religion, as well as sexuality.

The removal of targeted advert options for these topics will begin on 19 January 2021. Google Ads already prohibits targeting of topics related to what it calls ‘sexual interests’.

The move comes after Facebook has faced scrutiny for allowing political misinformation to proffer on the site. There have also been concerns about advertisers targeting vulnerable communities via the site.

However, fears have been raised about Meta’s new policy cutting off targeted advertising by companies and organisations that perform positive societal work. Meta said that ‘same-sex marriage’ and ‘LGBT culture’ were examples of targeting categories that could not be used as part of targeted adverts once the new measures were active.

Other categories that will be removed include ‘lung cancer awareness’. ‘World Diabetes Day’ and ‘Jewish holidays’.

The impact this could have on non-profit organisations’ abilities to communicate could be significant. For example, once the new measures kick in, a certified non-profit organisation providing information about sexual health for LGBTQ people would not be able to target adverts towards people who have expressed interest in LGBTQ-related Facebook or Instagram posts.

“This was not a simple choice… there was advocacy in both directions”

Graham Mudd, Meta Vice President of product marketing, on the decision to remove targeted advertising for topics deemed sensitive

Graham Mudd, Meta’s Vice President of product marketing, said the decision to remove detailed advert targeting for the sensitive subjects was “not easy”.

He wrote in a blog post: “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.”

Mudd added: “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.”

In October 2021 Facebook announced that it was rebranding to the company name Meta, although the social media platform that forms part of the larger company will still be called Facebook.

Meta is ploughing investment into the creation of a “metaverse”: a virtual world the company hopes will attract a new generation of users.

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