Meta (Facebook) Settles Fair Housing Violation Allegations
Settlement requires modifications to ad delivery services, civil penalty and ongoing compliance.
- Understand advertising platform services’ methods and procedures to avoid options that impermissibly target audiences based on federal and state fair housing protected characteristics.
- Advertisements should never indicate a preference or limitation based on fair housing protected characteristics, which pursuant to the federal fair housing laws include race, color, religion, sex, disability, family status and national origin;
- Including a fair housing opportunity message or fair housing logo in advertisements to demonstrate your commitment to providing equal professional services.
Meta, formerly known as Facebook, (“Meta”) recently entered into a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) over claims that their advertisement delivery algorithms violated the Fair Housing Act. The DOJ’s lawsuit was based on a 2018 HUD investigation, which accused Meta of providing features that allowed housing advertisers to categorically target and exclude consumers based on FHA-protected characteristics.
The DOJ’s complaint alleged that Meta’s advertisement services violated the Fair Housing Act in three distinct ways. First, the platform allowed housing advertisers to use Facebook-created categories based on FHA-protected characteristics in targeting or excluding the audience receiving housing ads. Second, Facebook had a “Lookalike Audience” tool which used FHA-protected categories to identify additional users with similar characteristics as an advertiser’s ideal audience. And lastly, Facebook’s ad delivery algorithms used FHA-protected characteristics to determine which consumers could see the advertisement.
As part of the settlement, Meta agreed to make significant changes to its housing ad delivery methods, including no longer using the “Special Ad Audience” (previously called “Lookalike Audience”) and to develop a new system for housing ads to address disparities between advertisers’ targeted audiences and the group of Facebook users who will actually be delivered the ads. In addition, Meta will pay the maximum civil penalty of $115,054, and a third-party reviewer will be appointed to monitor Meta’s compliance with the terms of the agreement. Any future changes to targeting options must be approved by the DOJ prior to implementation, and the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York will retain jurisdiction for purposes of resolving disputes and entering any modification orders.
Meta also agreed to continue providing enhanced education regarding anti-discrimination laws and the Fair Housing Act to its advertisers and employees.