Fair housing principles apply on-line exactly as in real life! Earlier this week, we published on our Facebook page (if you’re not following us, you should!) that HUD filed a complaint about discriminatory practices with the way Facebook allowed advertisers to target (or withhold ads) from users based on protected classes. Facebook allowed advertisers to, among other things: display housing ads either only to men or women; not show ads to Facebook users interested in accessibility such as “assistance dog,” “mobility scooter,” “accessibility” or “deaf culture”; not show ads to users whom Facebook categorizes as interested in “child care” or “parenting,” or show ads only to users with children above a specified age; to display/not display ads to users whom Facebook categorizes as interested in a particular place of worship, religion or tenet.
Facebook responded by removing thousands of targeting options from its advertising platform. “There is no place for discrimination [on our advertising platform],” Facebook stated in response to the HUD complaint. So far, they’ve removed more than 5,000 ad target options to “help prevent misuse,” according to the company. Facebook removed options such as “limiting the ability for advertisers to exclude audiences that relate to attributes such as ethnicity or religion.”
The company also announced that all advertisers in the U.S. will be required to comply with its non-discrimination policy if they wanted to advertise on Facebook.
“While these options have been used in legitimate ways to reach people interested in a certain product or service, we think minimizing the risk of abuse is more important,” Facebook said of its decision to remove the target options within its ad platform.
Facebook said it will share more updates to its targeted advertising tool over the next few months as it continues to “refine” it.
The National Association of REALTORS® released a statement this week in support of HUD’s enforcement of the Fair Housing Act and actions against Facebook. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act.
“As various online tools and platforms continue to transform the real estate industry in the 21st century, our understanding of how this law is enforced and applied must continue to evolve as well,” Elizabeth Mendenhall, NAR president, said in a statement. “REALTORS® commend the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Secretary Ben Carson for taking decisive action to defend fair housing laws, and for working to ensure its intended consumer protections extend to wherever real estate is marketed.”