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Bad to worse: Now Facebook is being sued over housing discrimination

Bad to worse: Now Facebook is being sued over housing discrimination
[Photo: Flickr user TechCrunch]

The National Fair Housing Alliance, along with three other nonprofit housing advocacy organizations around the country, has filed a lawsuit against Facebook over its alleged discriminatory advertisements. The nonprofits, over the last few months, created a fake real estate company and used the Facebook ad platform to place housing ads. According to the lawsuit, the NFHA was able to place advertisements that “[excluded] families with children and women from receiving advertisements, as well as users with interests based on disability and national origin.”

In the NFHA’s press release, the organization writes that “Facebook’s advertising platform enables landlords and real estate brokers to exclude families with children, women, and other protected classes of people from receiving housing ads.”

The lawsuit follows extensive reporting from ProPublica that investigated these potentially discriminatory practices. For over a year, the journalism outlet tested various ways that landlords could place ads for housing, and found that the targeting allowed for many people to be kept out of the loop. Given Facebook’s massive user base of over 2 billion users, the group believes that the social network is in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

The lawsuit demands that Facebook “end its discriminatory advertising practices.”

Meanwhile, Facebook continues to try to build out its own housing facilities in Menlo Park, California, a plan that has been rankling many local housing advocates there.

Update: A Facebook spokesperson provided me with this statement: “There is absolutely no place for discrimination on Facebook. We believe this lawsuit is without merit, and we will defend ourselves vigorously.”