Facebook's safety feature was first introduced in 2014 after the massive Nepal earthquake.Reuters

Until now Facebook had allowed those who want to use its ad services to market products using "ethnic affinity" among other categories. On Friday, the social network announced that it will no longer provide advertiser's the option to target audiences based on their ethnicity.

"Recently, policymakers and civil rights leaders have expressed concerns that advertisers could misuse some aspects of our affinity marketing segments," Erin Egan, Facebook's vice president of US public policy and chief privacy officer, said in a blog post.

"Specifically, they've raised the possibility that some advertisers might use these segments to run ads that discriminate against people, particularly in areas where certain groups have historically faced discrimination — housing, employment and the extension of credit. Discriminatory advertising has no place on Facebook," he added.

Facebook despite allowing advertisers to access data about demographics based on ethnicities has strict policy against discrimination in its advertising content.

The social network also gives access to demographics of audiences based on gender, age, favourite movies, food preferences and geography to advertisers, also of housing, employment and credit services in the US, to help them reach the right audience.

The social network's public policy team in the US has been meeting representatives such as New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, US Rep. Robin Kelly of Illinois and the Congressional Black Caucus, and US Rep. Linda Sánchez of California and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. They had raised concerns over advertisers discriminating against minorities while marketing their housing, employment opportunities and extension of credit.

Facebook said it will, "build tools to detect and automatically disable the use of ethnic affinity marketing for certain types of ads."

Ethnic affinities that advertisers had access to till now were signals like Asian-American, African-American, and several Hispanic groups.