Why Is Facebook Still Allowing Discriminatory Ads?

Since 1968, the Fair Housing Act has prevented realtors and landlords from engaging in discriminatory behavior. Fifty years later, however, Facebook is making it incredibly easy to deny certain types of people from seeing housing options via selective advertising practices.

Tell Facebook: No more discriminatory housing ads!

ProPublica conducted a test to see whether it could purchase ads promoting housing while explicitly excluding certain types of people (i.e. African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans). All of these ads were approved within a few minutes. Only an ad excluding Muslims took longer than that, and it was approved without objection from Facebook in less than half an hour.

Perhaps the most alarming thing is that Facebook has been caught allowing discriminatory ad-buying again. ProPublica tried a similar experiment last year and alerted the public and Facebook of the problem then. Subsequently, Facebook said it had devised a new system to prevent these demographic-based exclusions.

A year later, the problem is not actually remedied, as evidenced by ProPublica’s latest ad buy. All the while, Facebook has increased its position in the housing industry by making it a main feature in the website’s popular “Marketplace” section.

Under the Fair Housing Act, people in the United States cannot be denied housing opportunities on the basis of their race, ethnicity, religion, gender or familial status. (Sadly, LGBTQ housing discrimination lives on.) More specifically, the law also stipulates that housing ads may not be placed that indicate a preference for or discriminate against certain types of people.

“Our goal is to show ads that are as relevant and useful as the other content you see,” said Ron Goldman, the VP of ads at Facebook, in response to ProPublica’s report. “We don’t want advertising to be used for hate or discrimination, and our policies reflect that.”

This housing discrimination fiasco is not the only advertisement-based scandal Facebook has seen recently. A couple of months ago, ProPublica found that Facebook had categories that allowed ad-buyers to specifically target Neo-Nazis.

And pretty much everyone is familiar with the saga of Russian money being used to buy American political ads on Facebook. Given that that breaks federal election laws, Facebook should have absolutely been more on top of how these potentially election-altering advertisements were being funded and vetted.

Allowing ads to specifically target – or exclude – certain types of people adds value for Facebook’s advertisers, but that doesn’t make it legal. It’s time Facebook take a more serious look at its ad practices and make sure its ethically in compliance with the law rather than routinely saying, “Oops!” after pocketing the money.

Last quarter, Facebook made $9.16 billion in ad revenue. It’s no wonder that Facebook is willing to overlook its system’s problematic issues – there’s probably no fine large enough to offset the money it’s raking in.

Nevertheless, we must call on Facebook to be a better company, not just a more profitable one. Urge Facebook to completely disable this option for housing ads by signing this Care2 petition.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

30 comments

Marty P
Marty Price1 months ago

This company seems to lack any kind of moral fibre whatsoever. Closing pages of rescue groups in Texas trying to reunite lost pets with their families for no reason other than spite. No problem posting pictures of animal cruelty and abuse but any kind of nudity even in art form is not allowed. If it's ZUCKERBURG making these decisions then he is truly a twisted and messed up individual.

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Peggy B
Peggy B1 months ago

TYFS

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Lisa M
Lisa M1 months ago

Noted.

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Lisa M
Lisa M1 months ago

Noted.

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Danuta W
Danuta W1 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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Ellie M
Ellie M1 months ago

ty

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Ann B
Ann B1 months ago

hard to get out of facebook - way to much gossip and bullying

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Winn A
Winn A1 months ago

:-(

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Lisa M
Lisa M1 months ago

Facebook sucks! I have never had an account and never would!

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Leanne K
Leanne K1 months ago

Not good enough, by a long shot facebook

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