Facebook Charged With Disability-Related Discrimination
The federal government is accusing Facebook of illegally using its advertising platform to discriminate against people with disabilities and other groups.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development charged the social media company Thursday with violating the Fair Housing Act. The agency said Facebook is “encouraging, enabling and causing housing discrimination” through its method of allowing advertisers to control who sees ads for homes.
“Facebook is discriminating against people based upon who they are and where they live,” said Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson. “Using a computer to limit a person’s housing choices can be just as discriminatory as slamming a door in someone’s face.”
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
According to the charge, Facebook allows advertisers to exclude or include users from seeing ads based on various attributes including interests in “accessibility” or “service animal.”
Furthermore, the charge alleges that Facebook’s system is set up in such a way that it won’t show ads to groups it considers unlikely to engage with them, even if the advertiser has explicitly targeted those groups.
As a result, “ads for housing and housing-related services are shown to large audiences that are severely biased based on characteristics protected by the (Fair Housing) Act,” according to the charge.
The Fair Housing Act bars housing discrimination — including in online ads — based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability or familial status. People with disabilities are one of several groups that the Department of Housing and Urban Development is accusing Facebook of discriminating against.
Last year, the housing agency filed a formal complaint against Facebook over Fair Housing Act concerns and began a fact-finding investigation.
Facebook subsequently said it would remove more than 5,000 categories from the targeting options offered to advertisers and said it would require all advertisers to certify that they comply with the company’s non-discrimination policy.
Facebook did not respond to a request for comment about the charge.