Facebook Slammed With Federal Complaint Over Discriminatory Housing Ads

Despite its past efforts, Facebook was not able to avoid a federal-level dispute over the allegations that it allowed discriminatory housing ads. A complaint against Facebook was officially filed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. It accused the social network of violating the Fair Housing Act. HUD alleged that the ad personalization of Facebook allowed advertisers redline ZIP codes and exclude people based on race, gender, accessibility, religion, parental status and national origins. The HUD said that the firm was limiting home choices for the protected classes “under the guise” of targeted ads.

The US attorney for the Southern District of New York expressed his support behind the move of HUD with a statement of interest in the said case.

Last Friday, the US government filed a “statement of interest” urging a federal judge to allow the suit that was filed in March by the National Fair Housing Alliance. It also urged other groups to go forward. Geoffrey Berman, a Manhattan U.S. Attorney, said that the groups should be allowed to pursue their claim that the tools of Facebook enable developers and landlords to exclude groups of people from receiving ads regarding housing based on specific characteristics that are in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

A spokesperson from Facebook reiterated the stance of the internet giant in a statement that was released to Politico. The spokesperson stated: There was “no place for discrimination on Facebook.” He was pointing out the firm’s existing policies. The company intended to respond to the complaint of HUD in court.

Ultimately, the qualms of the HUD revolve around past actions. Facebook has already excluded thousands of terms from ad filtering during the years that passed since the first concerns surfaced, and recently, it forged an agreement with Washington state prohibiting discrimination. The said complaint may serve more as a reminder that the eagerness of Facebook to court advertisers has not always factored in the social impact of the strategy of the company.