HUD charges Facebook over housing discrimination through its ad platform

The agency said Facebook violated fair housing laws

HUD Secretary Ben Carson and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (Credit: Getty Images)
HUD Secretary Ben Carson and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (Credit: Getty Images)

The Department of Housing and Urban Development charged Facebook on Thursday with violating fair housing laws.

The charge is for Facebook enabling housing discrimination through its advertising platform, Politico reported. It stemmed from an investigation launched last year. Several outside investigations have found that Facebook’s ad targeting allows advertisers to exclude people by categories including gender, race and ethnicity.

“Facebook is discriminating against people based upon who they are and where they live,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson 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.”

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A spokesperson for Facebook said the company is “disappointed.”

“We’ve been working with them to address their concerns and have taken significant steps to prevent ads discrimination,” the spokesperson added. Earlier this month, COO Sheryl Sandberg said Facebook would no longer allow housing advertisers to target users with ads based on their age, gender or ZIP code. That came as part of a settlement of five other discrimination lawsuits, which also included just under $5 million in payments.

The tech company is facing other regulatory issues as well. Facebook is more than a year into a Federal Trade Commission probing its alleged repeated failures to protect user data. Lawmakers have criticized the platform for data concerns, struggles to serve a diverse workforce and user base, and the spread of misinformation and hate speech on its platform. [Politico] — Meenal Vamburkar