Facebook is in trouble again! In the latest incident, the company has been charged by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for housing discrimination. The charges will fuel the ongoing debate over Facebook’s discrimination in its ad targeting system. As per an allegation from August last year, Facebook is accused of violating the Fair Housing Act.
Confirming the charges, HUD secretary Ben Carson said that Facebook supports and promotes discrimination by differentiating people based on their region. It discriminates by telling people who they are, added the secretary. According to the HUD official, the company limits a user’s choices in the case of ads on the platform. It is similar to shutting the door someone’s face, Carson added.
These discrimination allegations aren’t new. The matter came into limelight in 2016 when ProPublica accused Facebook of housing discrimination. According to its reports, the social media site’s ’ethnic affinities’ tool may be prohibiting black or Hispanic over the network from seeing some ads. Those ads were believed to be associated with housing or employment opportunities. At that time, Facebook didn’t have internal safeguards to get rid of such targeting.
Although Facebook didn’t have tools to deal with the issue that time, it took the ProPublica reports seriously and pledged to remove the housing discrimination issue from the platform. However, the problem was found to exist in 2017.
In the recent report, HUD has mentioned that many of the ads’ options to exclude people were directly targeting a certain group of individuals. There is a toggle button that allows a user to disable men or women from seeing the ad, the department reported. In addition, there are options to exclude users from seeing the ad who do not speak a specific language, it added.
When Facebook officials were asked about the HUD allegations, they said that the company is surprised with the department’s move. Facebook is addressing the issue seriously, and the company is working to settle the problem outside the court, they added. A Facebook spokesperson also revealed that the social media network worked and successfully removed many targeting options last year to prevent discrimination. In August, it eliminated thousands of specific targeting option, including ones associated with specific ethnicities and religions, the spokesperson informed.
The Facebook spokesperson also revealed that the company is disappointed due to HUD’s latest developments. However, the company will keep on working on its efforts to fix the issue as soon as possible, the spokesperson added.