HUD hits Facebook with housing discrimination complaint

The Department of Housing and Urban Development is accusing Facebook of violating the Fair Housing Act....

Posted: Aug 18, 2018 4:30 PM
Updated: Aug 18, 2018 4:30 PM

The Department of Housing and Urban Development is accusing Facebook of violating the Fair Housing Act.

The agency filed a formal complaint against the social media company on Friday, alleging that it allows landlords and home sellers to use targeted Facebook ads to discriminate against potential buyers or tenants on the basis of race, sex, religion, disability and other characteristics.

"When Facebook uses the vast amount of personal data it collects to help advertisers to discriminate, it's the same as slamming the door in someone's face," Anna María Farías, assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity, said in a statement.

Facebook responded to the allegation with a statement insisting that "there is no place for discrimination on Facebook; it's strictly prohibited in our policies. Over the past year we've strengthened our systems to further protect against misuse... and we'll continue working directly with HUD to address their concerns."

The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits home rental and sale advertisements from discriminating "based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin."

In its complaint, the federal housing agency outlined several ways landlords or sellers can use Facebook ads to do just that. They could, for example, decide to show the ads to only men, or ensure that their ads don't appear in the feeds of anyone with "accessibility" listed as an interest.

The National Fair Housing Alliance made the same argument in a federal lawsuit against the social media company. The case, filed in March in New York City, claims that Facebook's advertising tools continue to allow marketers to exclude women and families with children from seeing certain housing ads.

Diane L. Houk, one of the attorneys who filed that suit, called Friday's complaint "a very important step by HUD to enforce the Fair Housing Act."

HUD and the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York also filed documents bolstering the suit brought by the housing advocates. In a statement of interest filed with the court, they rejected Facebook's argument that it is protected from the federal housing law by the Communications Decency Act, which limits the liability of website operators.

The government argued that Facebook should in this case be classified as an internet content provider and is therefore subject to the Fair Housing Act.

Facebook said it "will respond in court" to the statement of interest.

Some of the details outlined in the HUD complaint, such as accusations of exclusion based on religion or an interest in "deaf culture" do not appear in the lawsuit filed by the National Fair Housing Alliance.

Houk said it is "very troubling to see that these categories are still available," especially "given the amount of public statements and coverage ... over the last two years."

According to the HUD complaint, the alleged violations occurred as recently as last month. But Facebook has faced such accusations since 2016, when ProPublica reported posting an ad for a housing event that it requested not be shown to anyone with what Facebook's ad tool calls an "ethnic affinity" of African-American, Asian-American or Hispanic.

"Our policies prohibit using our targeting options to discriminate, and they require compliance with the law," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement at the time. "We take prompt enforcement action when we determine that ads violate our policies."

ProPublica said last year that it was able to buy dozens of home rental advertisements targeted toward audiences that specifically excluded "African Americans, mothers of high school kids, people interested in wheelchair ramps, Jews, expats from Argentina and Spanish speakers."

— CNN's Seth Fiegerman contributed to this report.

West Lafayette
Clear
52° wxIcon
Hi: 68° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 52°
Kokomo
Clear
47° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 44°
Rensselaer
Clear
46° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 41°
Fowler
Clear
46° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 41°
Williamsport
Clear
48° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 45°
Crawfordsville
Clear
46° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 43°
Frankfort
Clear
47° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 43°
Delphi
Clear
47° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 44°
Monticello
Clear
47° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 44°
Logansport
Clear
46° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 44°
Bright and Breezy with Unseasonably Cooler Conditions.
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 108646

Reported Deaths: 3478
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion20341757
Lake10013312
Elkhart6198106
St. Joseph586796
Allen5785198
Hamilton4600109
Vanderburgh318126
Hendricks2607120
Monroe224336
Johnson2241122
Tippecanoe211313
Clark205056
Porter197843
Cass19209
Delaware180159
Vigo169621
Madison153075
LaPorte134837
Floyd127961
Howard125163
Kosciusko116717
Bartholomew113257
Warrick104134
Marshall97423
Boone93846
Dubois92118
Hancock89242
Noble86432
Grant85132
Henry73424
Jackson7259
Wayne72214
Morgan68038
Shelby65529
LaGrange62811
Daviess61627
Dearborn61428
Clinton59111
Harrison54824
Putnam5098
Lawrence49928
Montgomery49421
White47114
Knox4659
Decatur44739
Gibson4344
DeKalb42511
Miami4202
Greene40935
Fayette40413
Jasper3732
Scott34410
Steuben3447
Sullivan32612
Jennings30512
Franklin29225
Posey2900
Clay2855
Orange27924
Ripley2768
Carroll26713
Wabash2547
Washington2491
Whitley2456
Wells2422
Starke2387
Jefferson2363
Adams2303
Fulton2292
Tipton21522
Huntington2073
Randolph2047
Perry20014
Spencer1984
Jay1640
Newton16411
Owen1621
Martin1560
Rush1484
Pike1331
Vermillion1210
Fountain1152
Pulaski1121
Blackford1072
Crawford980
Brown933
Parke902
Benton880
Union760
Ohio757
Switzerland660
Warren381
Unassigned0225

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events