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HUD Accuses Facebook of Housing Discrimination

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on Friday made public its complaint against Facebook, alleging that the platform's advertising options violate the Fair Housing Act.

According to the complaint, Facebook's advertising platform effectively allows landlords and home sellers to engage in housing discrimination by letting them choose who sees their ads based on race, color, religion, sex, familial status, nationality, or disability.

HUD provides specific examples of discriminatory options the platform gives advertisers, such as displaying ads only to either women or men, not showing ads to users who say they are interested in "accessibility" or "deaf culture," and not showing ads to users interested in a particular religion. The complaint also alleges that Facebook enables advertisers to discriminate based on race by allowing them to "[draw] a red line around majority-minority zip codes" and not show their ads to users in those areas.

"The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination including those who might limit or deny housing options with a click of a mouse," Anna María Farías, HUD's assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity, said in a statement. "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."