The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is suing Facebook for violating the Fair Housing Act by “encouraging, enabling and causing housing discrimination” when it allows companies to use their platform to shield who can see certain housing ads.
Initially passed in 1968, the Fair Housing Act intended to promote equality in the housing sector by prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability or familial status. An amendment was made in 1974 to include women, and, as a result, a greater share of women have experienced more economic and social benefits due to improved access to housing opportunities in buying, selling and financing.
HUD accuses Facebook of allowing advertisers to use specific tools on their advertising platform to exclude people classified as “non-American born,” “non-Christian” or “interested in Hispanic culture,” or those living in specific ZIP codes, from viewing the ad. Essentially this allowed redlining of specific communities who used the social media site.
“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.”
HUD’s charges will soon be heard by a U.S. administrative law judge or in federal district court. In response, Facebook has stated that it will make a concerted effort to prevent further discrimination such as not allowing housing advertisers to target consumers by age, gender or ZIP code.
Stay tuned as NAWRB will keep track of this story’s developments.