On Friday, HUD published a press release announcing that it was filing a housing discrimination complaint against the social networking site Facebook. The Department claims that Facebook has a series of options which allow advertisers to control which groups can see their advertisements. By allowing advertisers to restrict certain groups–defined by protected characteristics–from viewing advertised housing, HUD believes that Facebook is discriminating.
For example, advertisers may restrict the viewing pool of users based on protected characteristics like race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, and disability. Facebook mines data on its users and classifies its users based on protected characteristics. Advertisers may then choose to restrict which groups see their advertisements based on those groups’ interests. The Department found that Facebook allows the following:
- Advertisers to discriminate based on sex by showing ads only to men or women;
- Advertisers to discriminate based on disability by not showing ads to users whom Facebook categorizes as interested in things like assistance dogs or mobility scooters;
- Advertisers to discriminate based on familial status by not showing ads to users whom Facebook categorizes as interested in things like child care or parenting;
- Advertisers to discriminate based on national origin by not showing ads to users whom are interested in certain countries or geographical regions like Latin America or China; and
- Advertisers to discriminate based on race or color by allowing advertisers to advertise to certain zip codes.
The Department’s press release can be found here.
The Department’s complaint can be found here.