Facebook Ends Ad Targeting By Sexual Orientation

For years, companies that offered services of specific interest to the LGBTQ community have been able to target their advertising to that particular audience utilizing the social media giant’s “interested in” option.

But last month, Facebook quietly eliminated the ability to direct ads to folks based on sexual orientation. An exception, however, was made for dating apps to continue using that targeting option.

The change has impacted not only businesses that target the gay community, but important non-profit groups, like The Trevor Project, who offer life-saving services.

More from Buzzfeed:

Facebook stopped allowing “interested in” targeting as part of a major overhaul of its ad platform, which the company initiated after facing scrutiny from users and Congress last year. Bad actors have mercilessly exploited the platform in recent years, including Kremlin-linked trolls who used its targeting options to reach millions of Americans in an effort to divide the country during the 2016 election. And dozens of companies have used Facebook’s ad targeting options “to exclude older workers from job ads,” a recent Propublica investigation found.

Some organizations supporting the LGBT community aren’t opposed to Facebook’s move. A spokesperson for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) told BuzzFeed news that Facebook’s call to remove identity-based targeting while keeping interest-based targeting is “a fair compromise” that could prevent malicious uses of the ad platform. GLAAD, an advocacy organization, does not use the identity-based targeting, or have a need for it the way the Trevor Project does.

But Facebook’s reluctance to allow the Trevor Project to use the criteria, even as it’s made special accommodations for dating apps, has frustrated the nonprofit. It was using the targeting to promote a national mental health survey. “We have a very limited budget, and so now I have to throw money at the wind, hoping it’s going to reach the group I want to reach,” Stowell said.

Facebook says dating apps are allowed to continue using sexual orientation thanks to a “legacy requirement.” The social media company added, however, that will end at the end of April.