Facebook May Be Violating Civil Rights Law Through Advertising Feature That Targets Race

Eric Lieberman | Deputy Editor

Facebook apparently has a feature that permits advertisers to target users by race and ethnicity, possibly violating civil rights laws.

The social media company has a self-service advertising page that offers many different functions. One of those features allows marketers the option to “narrow audience” for demographics, specifically, “ethnic affinity.”

This essentially gives advertisers the choice to exclude certain races from receiving their content.

[Screenshot of Daily Caller's Facebook Ad Manager]

[Screenshot of Daily Caller’s Facebook Ad Manager]

By allowing companies that are looking for publicity to target specific ethnicities, the social media company could be acting illegally, at least according to some legal experts.

“This is horrifying. This is massively illegal. This is about as blatant a violation of the federal Fair Housing Act as one can find,” John Relman, a civil rights lawyer, told ProPublica, a journalism nonprofit.

According to the Fair Housing Act, it is unlawful:

“To make, print, or publish, or cause to be made, printed, or published any notice, statement, or advertisement, with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin, or an intention to make any such preference, limitation, or discrimination.”

It may also violate another statute.

“Printing or publication of notices or advertisements indicating prohibited preference, limitation, specification, or discrimination; occupational qualification exception,” is an unlawful employment practice, according to the official government page for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Facebook asserts that it is doing nothing wrong. (RELATED: Cancer Awareness Group Draws Square Breasts For Video After Facebook Censors It)

“We take a strong stand against advertisers misusing our platform: Our policies prohibit using our targeting options to discriminate, and they require compliance with the law,” Steve Satterfield, privacy and public policy manager at Facebook, told ProPublica. “We take prompt enforcement action when we determine that ads violate our policies.”

Facebook has not responded to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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