“Discrimination in housing-related advertising is against the law” said Paul Compton, general counsel for The Department of Housing and Urban Development. This sentiment was further stated by HUD Secretary Ben Carson who made clear that using a computer to limit a person’s housing choices based on race, religion, gender, or any protected class is the same as slamming a door in that person’s face.In escalation from previous years, HUD claimed in March that Facebook is culpable for multiple violations of the Fair Housing Act. HUD reports that Facebook allowed users to structure targeted ads that eliminated specific groups such as non-christians, foreign born, or people seeking accessibility. There are other allegations as well.
This all comes shortly after Facebook settled with civil rights groups that claimed protected categories like race, religion, and color were being discriminated against by lenders, creditors and employers.
Recent talks between HUD and Facebook broke off when HUD requested access to user-data and other information that Facebook deemed too sensitive to reveal without protection. HUD has come to a conclusion that discrimination is also amplified by Facebook’s algorithm, which Facebook claims there is no evidence of.
Employment attorney Peter Romer-Friedman settled multiple suits against Facebook in March with regard to age discrimination in Facebook’s algorithm and points out the broader implications if this bias is proven.
Facebook previously responded to HUD that advertisers and not Facebook were responsible for targeting ads. In 2018 a discrimination suit by the National Fair Housing Alliance and a formal complaint by HUD had a Facebook spokesperson state “There is absolutely no place for discrimination on Facebook. We believe this lawsuit is without merit and will defend ourselves vigorously.”
Recently, a HUD spokesman said both Facebook and HUD are bound not to disclose sensitive negotiations, and cannot say much more.