NEW YORK — Federal regulators are alleging that Facebook’s advertising tools allow landlords and real estate brokers to engage in housing discrimination.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said in an administrative complaint this week that Facebook violated the Fair Housing Act because its targeting systems allow advertisers to exclude certain audiences, such as families with young children or disabled people, from seeing housing ads.
“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,” HUD Assistant Secretary Anna María Farias said in a statement Friday.
Service providers such as Facebook typically aren’t liable for the actions of their users. In a separate, civil lawsuit filed by housing advocates, the Justice Department says Facebook doesn’t fall under that category because it mines user data, some of which users have to provide, and customizes ads for specific audiences. The government says that counts as being a content creator, rather than merely a transmitter of user content.