Facebook Sued By Department of Housing and Urban Development For Discrimination

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Mary Margaret Olohan Social Issues Reporter
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The Department of Housing and Urban Development sued Facebook Thursday for allowing housing discrimination by advertisers on Facebook.

The New York Times reports that Facebook violated the federal Fair Housing Act by allowing advertisers to restrict who can see housing ads based on race, religion and national origin. Similarly, Facebook used data mining to decide which Facebook users could view which ads. (RELATED: Facebook Bans ‘Praise, Support And Representation Of White Nationalism’)

“Facebook is discriminating against people based upon who they are and where they live,” said Housing Secretary Ben Carson 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 expressed surprise at The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s decision. “We’ve been working with them to address their concerns and have taken significant steps to prevent ads discrimination,” a statement from the company said.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development began an investigation into this matter in August, but they have not been the only ones to sue Facebook over these practices. The National Fair Housing Alliance, the American Civil Liberties Union and several other civil rights organizations sued on this matter and Facebook only recently settled the lawsuit.

During the settlement, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said that Facebook would no longer allow housing advertisers to target based on age, gender or location.

Facebook also received backlash in May of 2018 when it was discovered that their ad services prohibited the elderly from viewing certain ads. The Communications Workers of America alleged that the workers they represented weren’t presented with the same job openings due to Facebook’s targeted ad tools.

In November of 2016 Facebook was forced to discontinue a feature which allowed users to discriminate based on race and ethnicity. A class action lawsuit was filed against Facebook accusing them of violating key civil rights laws, like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as well as the Fair Housing Act.

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