The Department of Housing and Urban Development with violating the Fair Housing Act after its advertising system allowed landlords to choose who saw housing ads based on race, religion, sex, and other characteristics, CNN reports.
HUD said that the social media giant violated the Fair Housing Act by "encouraging, enabling, and causing" housing discrimination.
"Facebook is discriminating against people based upon who they are and where they live," HUD Secretary Ben Carson said in a statement. "Using a computer to limit a person's housing choices can be just as discriminatory as slamming a door in someone's face."
HUD previously filed a complaint against the company in August 2018, alleging that Facebook’s ad targeting system allowed landlords and advertisers to "engage in housing discrimination” by allowing advertisers to choose what users saw their ads based on categories like gender, race, disability, religion, and other characteristics.
Facebook paid millions to settle discrimination suits:
Last week, Facebook said it would pay $5 million to settle multiple lawsuits accusing the company’s ad platform to discriminate in housing, employment, and credit ads. The company said it would eliminate certain targeting options in those types of ads and allow users to access a page showing all housing ads even if they were not targeted.
Facebook told CNN in a statement that it was “surprised” by HUD’s move.
"Last year we eliminated thousands of targeting options that could potentially be misused, and just last week we reached historic agreements with the National Fair Housing Alliance, ACLU, and others that change the way housing, credit, and employment ads can be run on Facebook," a Facebook spokesperson told the network. "We're disappointed by today's developments, but we'll continue working with civil rights experts on these issues.”
Legal issues come after years of criticism:
“In December 2017, a ProPublica and New York Times investigation found that dozens of major companies ran recruitment ads only for specific age groups. At the time, Facebook said age-based targeting is ‘an accepted industry practice,’” CNN reported. “Another ProPublica report in November 2017 found discriminatory ads were making it through Facebook's systems. ProPublica was able to purchase dozens of home-rental ads that specifically excluded ‘African Americans, mothers of high school kids, people interested in wheelchair ramps, Jews, expats from Argentina and Spanish speakers.’"