A housing discrimination complaint alleges that as of July 24, 2018, Facebook’s advertising tools violate the Civil Rights Act because the social media website’s user practices “enable advertisers of housing and housing-related services to discriminate.”
The complaint was made by the assistant secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in Washington, D.C., and signed on Aug. 13.
HUD alleges Facebook’s “enabling discrimination” practices include sex, disability, familial status, religion, national origin, race and color discrimination.
Facebook’s advertising management tools allow individual users to customize and generate their own ads. Users have the option to enter keywords in order to target certain audiences.
Examples listed in the complaint include showing ads that can be customized only to women or men based on sex; not showing ads to users interested in “assistance dog” or “mobility scooter” or other phrases related to disability; not showing ads to people interested in “child care” or “parenting,” or by showing ads only to users with children above a specified age or familial status; showing ads only to users who identify with specific religious terms like “Christian Church,” “Jesus,” “Christ,” or “Bible”; not showing ads to people based on national origin or expressing interest in Latin America or countries outside of the United States.
The complaint states that Facebook’s alleged civil rights violations are “ongoing.”
Allegations about Facebook’s ad management tools being used for targeting audiences in violation of the Civil Rights Act have been reported for the past several years.
Targeted advertising allegedly violates Civil Rights Act