The claimants allege that Facebook has abused its enormous power in this new era of online advertising and should be held to the same standards.
Require Facebook to change its advertising platform and its practices to comply with fair housing laws, including by eliminating checkboxes, selection categories, and other content that enable advertisers to restrict access to housing advertisements.
"Facebook continues to enable landlords and real estate brokers to bar families with children, women, and others from receiving rental and sales ads for housing", the National Fair Housing Alliance and other groups allege in a complaint filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of NY.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits home rental and sale advertisements from discriminating "based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin". "Facebook is not above the law and must answer these civil rights claims in court". An email to Facebook wasn't immediately returned. Politicians and regulators on both sides of the Atlantic are scrutinizing the company's data privacy practices.
Facebook was first called out in 2016 for offering an ad customization option called "Ethnic Affinities", which let advertisers target and exclude specific groups for ads, including housing-related ads. "Facebook's platform is the virtual equivalent of posting a for-rent sign that says No Families with Young Kids or No Women, but it does so in an insidious and stealth manner so that people have no clue they have been excluded on the basis of family status or sex", Fair Housing Justice Center Executive Director Fred Freiberg said in a statement.
Amid growing public concern in the past weeks that Facebook has mishandled users' data, our investigation shows that Facebook also allows and even encourages its paid advertisers to discriminate using its vast trove of personal data.
The housing groups behind the lawsuit created a fake realty firm and submitted housing advertisements to Facebook.
According to the suit, the groups conducted similar investigations and found that Facebook continues to allow advertising options that could be used to bypass protected groups of people. "Facebook. -Complaint-w-Exhibits-March-27-Final-pdf.pdf" target="_blank">lawsuit says. Facebook temporarily blocked advertisers from excluding any users from seeing their ads in response.