Facebook Accused Of Disability-Related Discrimination
Facebook is being accused of allowing advertisers to discriminate against people with disabilities and other groups in violation of federal law.
In a formal complaint from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the social networking giant is facing allegations that it “unlawfully discriminates by enabling advertisers to restrict which Facebook users receive housing-related ads.”
Specifically, the federal agency notes that Facebook uses its massive trove of data to allow landlords and home sellers to choose not to show ads to those with interests in categories like “assistance dog,” “mobility scooter,” “accessibility” and “deaf culture,” among others.
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Doing so is in violation of the Fair Housing Act, which bars discrimination in housing transactions — including advertising — according to HUD.
“The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination including those who might limit or deny housing options with a click of a mouse,” said Anna María Farías, assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity at the agency. “When Facebook uses the vast amount of personal data it collects to help advertisers to discriminate, it’s the same as slamming the door in someone’s face.”
Aside from disability, the federal housing agency contends that Facebook’s ad platform enables housing providers to limit who sees their ads based on sex, race, color, religion, national origin, zip code and whether users have children or have kids of certain ages.
When the Department of Housing and Urban Development initiates a complaint, it triggers a formal fact-finding investigation that can lead to a charge of discrimination, the agency said.
The HUD complaint follows a lawsuit filed earlier this year by the National Fair Housing Alliance against Facebook outlining similar housing discrimination claims. The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York filed a statement of interest in that case last week.
Facebook said it plans to respond in court to the statement of interest and will work with HUD to address the agency’s concerns.
“There is no place for discrimination on Facebook; it’s strictly prohibited in our policies,” Facebook said. “Over the past year we’ve strengthened our systems to further protect against misuse.”