Cortez Masto, Senate Democrats ask Facebook to strengthen policies

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., at Las Vegas Academy of the Arts in downtown Las Vegas on Thursday, April 5, 2018. Richard Brian Las Vegas Review-Journal @vegasphotograph

WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats asked Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday to strengthen the social media platform policies to combat discrimination in online advertisements for housing and employment opportunities.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., sent a letter to Zuckerberg outlining concerns that the civil rights of minorities, the disabled, women and people of different sexual orientation could face discrimination based on targeted advertising.

“While targeted ads can be a tremendous tool for businesses and organizations, the unregulated use of such targeting for housing and employment and advertising can facilitate unlawful discrimination,” said Cortez Masto, a former Nevada attorney general and federal prosecutor.

Tuesday’s letter was signed by Cortez Masto and 13 other Senate Democrats.

Zuckerberg appeared before the Senate and House last week about the company’s handling of user data and privacy following a scandal that 87 million people on Facebook had personal information harvested and shared with outside groups.

Facebook has more than 200 million users, and the online social media platform allows advertisers who sell products to users.

Zuckerberg conceded mistakes were made in allowing contractors to harvest data and give them to outside groups. He pledged to work with Congress to better protect user information and privacy with advertisers.

“Barring advertisers from tailoring their ads to discriminate against users on the basis of their protected characteristics is a necessary step,” Cortez Masto said in the letter.

Contact Gary Martin at gmartin@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7390. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.

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