Meta to change real estate ad targeting after settling DOJ discrimination lawsuit

The Ministry of Justice has entered into a settlement agreement with Meta after suing the social media giant for targeted advertising practices that allegedly violated the Fair Housing Act. As part of the settlement agreement, Meta will change its ad serving system for real estate listings and stop using its “Special Ad Audience” tool.

The Justice Department touted the “historic” settlement, which resolves the department’s first case challenging algorithmic bias under the Fair Housing Act. The settlement also marks the first time that Meta will be subject to court oversight for its targeting and ad serving system.

The case began in 2019, when the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) sued Facebook to allow landlords and landlords to limit who has seen certain housing listings based on race, religion and nationality. HUD referred the case to the DOJ after Meta elected to have the charge heard in federal court.

Meta’s “Special Ad Audience” tool, according to the DOJ complaint, relies on a discriminatory algorithm. Meta said on Tuesday that it was tool dwell for job and credit ads, in addition to real estate ads.

To replace the tool, Meta said it will adopt a new system designed to ensure that the audience that ends up seeing a real estate ad more closely reflects the targeted audience eligible for that ad. It will focus on a few key demographics: age, gender, and estimated race or ethnicity.

The new system, the company said, “reflects more than a year of working with HUD.”

Under the terms of the settlement, Meta does not have to stop using the Special Ad Audience tool until the end of this year.

“This type of work is unprecedented in the advertising industry and represents a significant technological advancement in how machine learning is used to deliver personalized ads,” said Roy L. Austin Jr., vice president of civil rights and deputy general counsel for Meta, in a blog post. . “We are excited to be pioneering this effort, but given the complexity and technical challenges involved, it will take some time to test and implement.”

Under the terms of the settlement, Meta must also pay a civil fine of $115,054, the maximum penalty available under the Fair Housing Act (and a drop in the bucket for Meta, which reported revenues of $27.9 billion). dollars in its latest earnings report).

The Department of Justice and Meta will select an independent third-party reviewer to regularly verify that Meta’s new system meets the compliance standards agreed to by the parties.

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