Facebook and US settle lawsuit over discriminatory housing ad scheme, Meta denied charges

The United States and Facebook owner Meta Platforms have settled a lawsuit over a real estate advertising system that unlawfully discriminated against users based on their race and other characteristics, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Manhattan, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said Meta encouraged advertisers to target users based on characteristics such as race, religion, and gender, in violation of federal housing law. This law prohibits discrimination in housing based on such characteristics.

Meta denied any wrongdoing but agreed to pay a civil fine of $115,054 (almost Rs. 89 lakh), the highest allowed by law. Complaints about discrimination based on the ads have plagued the company since 2016, and the company has reached settlements with Washington State and advocacy groups for similar allegations.

As part of the deal, the company agreed to stop using an algorithmic tool called “Special Ad Audience” and design a new housing advertising tool by the end of the year.

“Because of this groundbreaking lawsuit, Meta will – for the first time – change its ad serving system to address algorithmic discrimination,” said Damian Williams, U.S. Attorney for Manhattan, said in a report.

Meta said it will also use the new system for job and credit-related ads.

“Discrimination in housing, employment, and credit is a deep-rooted issue with a long history in the United States, and we are committed to expanding opportunities for marginalized communities in these spaces and others,” said the society. said in a report.

The case stems from a civil charge filed in 2019 by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The DOJ said Facebook made some changes as part of its 2019 settlement with advocacy groups, but said that settlement did not address ad serving through machine learning algorithms.

The settlement reached on Tuesday is subject to a judge’s review.

© Thomson Reuters 2022


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