Earlier today, the Social Media giant Facebook was served a lawsuit from the Department of Housing and Urban Development for allegedly discriminating against certain groups of people; by way of allowing companies to serve housing ads on their platform. According to the charging document, HUD is accusing Facebook of unlawful discrimination for using ad targeting parameters based on race, religion, familial status, disability, and other characteristics that align with The 1968 Fair Housng Act.
“Facebook is discriminating against people based upon who they are and where they live,” stated, HUD secretary Ben Carson. “Using a computer to limit a person’s housing choices can be just as discriminatory as slamming a door in someone’s face.”
The lawsuit filed by HUD comes just days after the organization announced on Tuesday its plan to settle five lawsuits filed by civil rights groups last year; claiming that companies were utilizing the platform’s business model to illegally target job, home sales, and credit offer advertisements.
To say this latest lawsuit has taken Facebook by surprise is an understatement as the company has actively demonstrated their efforts to closely collaborate with HUD to address the issue of housing discrimnation via its ad platform.
“We’re surprised by HUD’s decision, as we’ve been working with them to address their concerns and have taken significant steps to prevent ads discrimination,” Facebook spokeswoman Elisabeth Diana said in an emailed statement.
Additional statements from Facebook suggest that the lawsuit stems from HUDs disgruntlement with the company’s unwillingness to grant access to information pertaining to the network’s user.
“While we were eager to find a solution, HUD insisted on access to sensitive information — like user data — without adequate safeguards,” Facebook said. “We’re disappointed by today’s developments, but we’ll continue working with civil rights experts on these issues.”
The charging document, – which states it is unlawful to discriminate against any person in the terms, conditions, or privileges of the sale or rental of a dwelling, or in the provision of services or facilities in connection therewith, because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin or disability. 42 U.S.C. § 3604(b), (f)(2); 24 C.F.R. § 100.50(b)(2); 24 C.F.R. § 100.65(a); 24 C.F.R. § 100.70(b); 24 C.F.R. § 100.202(b). – identifies Facebook as the second largest online advertiser in the United States, responsible for approximately twenty percent of all online advertising nationwide.
In a March 19, 2o19 statement released by Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg, she stated, “Our policies already prohibit advertisers from using our tools to discriminate. We’ve removed thousands of categories from targeting related to protected classes such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and religion. But we can do better.”
As your premiere boutique digital marketing agency, we pride ourselves on pursuing best practices from start to finish; ensuring that we help you reach your marketing goals, while keeping you compliant. Every member of our team undergoes annual training on The Fair Housing Act and HUD’s initiatives. Whether we’re running an afternoon social media post or a national ad campaign for you, we are careful to navigate around any content that could be construed as discriminatory in any way. All the while following the example of giants like Facebook who are continuing to do more.
If you have any concerns or questions about your own website, social media campaigns, or other digital marketing efforts, we always advise our clients to take a precautionary approach and get in touch with us. Our team is here to help!