US agency charges Facebook with violating housing law

Platform accused of targeting ads to restrict minorities from viewing them

The charges come just weeks after Facebook announced major changes to the way it sells targeted advertising as part of a legal settlement. Photograph: Reuters

The charges come just weeks after Facebook announced major changes to the way it sells targeted advertising as part of a legal settlement. Photograph: Reuters

 

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has accused Facebook of using its targeted advertising tools to improperly restrict minorities and other protected groups from viewing real estate ads.

The agency of Thursday filed a complaint alleging Facebook was “unlawfully discriminating” based on race, colour, national origin and other criteria by “restricting who can view housing-related ads” on its platforms and across the internet, in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

HUD in a statement said the social network “mines extensive data about its users” and uses that to determine which of its users view housing-related ads “based, in part, on these protected characteristics”.

The charges come just weeks after Facebook announced major changes to the way it sells targeted advertising as part of a legal settlement with civil rights advocates who accused the company of enabling discrimination in housing, employment and credit advertising.

Housing choices

“Facebook is discriminating against people based upon who they are and where they live,” Ben Carson, HUD secretary, said in a statement. “Using a computer to limit a person’s housing choices can be just as discriminatory as slamming a door in someone’s face.”

Facebook shares opened down 1.2 per cent shortly after opening bell on Thursday before paring some of their losses in early trading. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019