Facebook Does Away With Targeted Ads After Lawsuits Claim Discrimination In Housing And Employment

Facebook Does Away With Targeted Ads After Lawsuits Claim Discrimination In Housing And Employment

Facebook Headquarters, 1 Hacker Way Menlo Park, California | Image: Anita Sanikop

There have long been complaints about Facebook’s targeted advertising. It makes a lot of money for the social media giant but also allows for discrimination against people of color and women in employment and housing, according to various civil rights groups.

Some of these groups filed a lawsuit and Facebook responded by agreeing to dismantle its targeted advertising system.

“Facebook agreed to overhaul its lucrative targeted advertising system to settle accusations that landlords, lenders and employers use the platform to discriminate against African Americans, women, seniors, people with disabilities and others,” the Washington Post reported.

“This type of discrimination that we thought was stamped out in the ’60s and ’70s by our civil rights laws should not be given a new life in the digital era,” said Galen Sherwin, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU. “This settlement establishes that the web is not a civil-rights-free zone.”

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The complaints about the ad system weren’t anything new. Civil rights advocates have warned for years that Facebook’s ads violated anti-discrimination laws because advertisers were able to use its data to exclude specific groups of people, the Washington Post reported.

The Justice Department allowed a lawsuit to proceed last year over Facebook’s objections, arguing that the company can be held liable for ad-targeting tools that deprive people of housing offers.

This isn’t the first time Facebook promised to change its advertising system. It made that promise in 2018 as well.

Facebook says it will make the changes by the end of the year. There will be a separate portal to limit how much advertisers can micro-target their audience for housing, employment and credit.

As part of the settlement, Facebook will shell out less than $5 million to the parties, including a $2.5-million settlement with the National Fair Housing Alliance to provide training to advertisers on how to comply with housing and lending laws, and advertising credits to promote fair housing.