HUD against Facebook with housing discrimination over the company’s targeted advertising practices

Facebook was charged with violating the Fair housing act by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) because the company targeted advertising discriminates on the basis of race and color.

The Thursday announcement, which claims that Facebook unlawfully discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, familial status, gender, and disability by limiting who can view housing related ads on the platform, follows HUD probe of a complaint by August 2018.

According to the HUD is the boss, Mark Zuckerberg-led social network allowed advertisers to exclude people who have Facebook marked as parents; a non-American born; not a Christian; who are interested in the accessibility; are interested in the Spanish culture; and other characteristics that are in line with the Fair housing act’s protected classes. The tech platform also allegedly gave advertisers the ability to show your ads only for men or only for women.


HUD also claims that Facebook combines data collected about the characteristics and behavior with the information that he obtains about the behavior of users on other sites and offline, and then utilizes machine learning to predict what a user is likely to be a response to an advertisement will be — and in doing this, the company re-groups defined by their protected class.

“Facebook is the discrimination of people based on who they are and where they live,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson said in a statement. “With the help of a computer to restrict a person’s housing choices can be just as discriminatory as slamming a door in someone’s face.”

A source with knowledge of the company thinking pushed back on the HUD’s claim about the tech giant’s artificial intelligence systems, saying, there is no evidence that these systems discriminate against users after the ads are placed.

Last week, Facebook announced that it reached an important agreement with the National Fair Housing Alliance, the ACLU and others to change the advertising policy of targeting certain groups, including the removal of age, gender, and postal code targeting all homes, credit, and employment ads on the platform. Previously, the company had already removed his other targeting options that are limited to the advertisers the possibility to target users on the basis of ethnicity, gender and religion.

The company provided Fox News with the following statement on Thursday:


“We are surprised by HUD’s decision because we are working with them to address their problems and have taken important steps to prevent ads from discrimination. Last year, we have eliminated thousands of targeting options that could be misused, and last week, we have reached historic agreements with the National Fair Housing Alliance, the ACLU, and others that the operation of housing, credit, employment, and ads can be run on Facebook. While we were eager to find a solution, HUD insisted on the access to sensitive data, such as data of the user — without sufficient safeguards. We are disappointed by the current developments, but we continue to work with civil rights experts on these issues.”


Galen Sherwin, senior staff attorney with the ACLU women’s Rights Project, praised the HUD cost in a statement to Fox News.

“We are pleased with the news that the HUD stays busy Facebook reform of the ad targeting platform, and in particular the use of the tool and the algorithms that is skewed, and the audiences who received the ads. Although the settlement was reached with Facebook will result in the removal of many of the most disturbing of Facebook ‘ s ad practices, there is still a lot of work to do. We will continue to monitor the settlement of the execution, for which Facebook to study and report on the algorithmic bias and any ongoing discriminatory effect of targeting possibilities.”

Facebook, which makes use of artificial intelligence and machine learning in a number of respects to the family of apps, has invested in a number of internal and external initiatives to develop best practices on the ethics of the AI, including a $7.5 million five-year grant in cooperation with the Technical University of Munich.


Freedom of Facebook, a coalition of groups that called for the tech giant to be broken up, also praised the HUD’s actions, but said there’s more work to be done.

“The HUD complaint, is definitely add much-needed pressure on Facebook to eradicate discrimination of the ad platform as a whole, and we encourage the department of research of the broad swath of online advertising platforms,” Sarah Miller, co-chairman of the Freedom of Facebook, said in a statement.

HUD, the cost will probably be heard by an administrative law judge, who can decide to award compensation for damage suffered as a result of the discrimination or to an interim injunction or the power of Facebook to pay fines. If the matter goes to the federal court, the court may also award punitive damages.

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