HUD files charges against Facebook over alleged ad discrimination

Shawn Knight

TechSpot Staff
Staff member

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on Thursday filed charges against Facebook for violating the Fair Housing Act by “encouraging, enabling and causing housing discrimination” through its advertising platform.

Specifically, HUD alleges Facebook allowed advertisers to exclude people that the social network classified as parents, non-American-born, non-Christian, interested in accessibility, interested in Hispanic culture and a variety of other interests. Furthermore, the charge alleges Facebook allowed advertisers to exclude people based on the neighborhood they live in by “drawing a red line around those neighborhoods on a map” and giving advertisers the ability to show ads only to men or only to women.

HUD Secretary Ben Carson said using a computer to limit a person’s housing choices can be just as discriminatory as slamming a door in someone’s face.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing and in housing-related services such as online advertisements based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability or familial status.

A spokesperson for Facebook told Axios that they were surprised by HUD’s decision as they’ve been working with them to address their concerns and have taken significant steps to prevent ads discrimination. “We're disappointed by today’s developments, but we’ll continue working with civil rights experts on these issues,” the spokesperson added.

Lead image courtesy designer491 via Shutterstock. Second image courtesy Carlos andre Santos via Shutterstock

Permalink to story.



TS Evangelist
I'll say it again: Facebook, Youtube and Twitter are PRIVATE (say it with me) PRIVATE entities and they are basically allowed to censor anything they want.

The first Amendment says "CONGRESS shall make no law".

Facebook, Twitter and Youtube ain't CONGRESS.

You know who ISN'T allowed to censor?

apparently the .GOV means that it's part of the GOVERNMENT and they are under CONGRESS and can't censor.


TS Evangelist
Ummm it's marketing... you typically go after a target audience and not everyone on the globe. It get HUD's concern, but going after Facebook instead of the person/company doing the ad is kind of lazy of HUD IMO.
  • Like
Reactions: brucek
Ok, I get why there was discrimination against most of those groups as there are people who don't want to live near someone who's not like them, but parents? What's the market demand for that? No yelling kids (get offa my lawn!)? No new parents driving with 5 hours of sleep in the past week? DINKs spend more money at local businesses? Just wondering what the economic drive for that selection was.

Uncle Al

TS Evangelist
@QuantumPhysics - Actually, while the law says as you quoted, it also says that when businesses openly engage with public / private agencies they also agree to comply with the governments standards. That was part of the basis for the decision that D. Trump could not randomly block people he didn't like from seeing his tweets. While this is a bit different, it is applicable. For instance, if a landlord accidentally rents to a HUD participant he is legally obligated to continue to rent to that party as long as they (them or HUD) pays their rent on time, etc, etc. They also opened the door when they accepted the first Ad, etc. on that particular subject. They should simply have banned it all together, but since that has an affect on their cash flow, they accepted it anyway.

Also, in as much as some of those companies sell stock, they are no longer private but are considered public companies and are legally bound, as such.


TS Guru
This seems like quite a reach to me.

Not paying to advertise to is not at all equivalent to not willing to sell to. If they're listed on MLS or any local equivalent that'd be enough evidence to me that they are open to all interested buyers.

And even if you bought that it was somehow beneficial to society to not try to connect products to buyers most likely to be interested in them, I'd still place that responsibility on the actual advertiser (the person who paid for the ads and specified the targeting characteristics) vs. a multi-faceted advertising platform that advertises lots of other products other than housing. It smells too much like trying to target a deep pocket vs. actually targeting someone who is most directly responsible for "discriminating."