Michigan residents may have heard that Facebook is being investigated for possibly violating fair housing laws. An investigation began after a ProPublica report issued in 2016 claimed that the company’s advertising system allowed advertisers to target certain groups at the exclusion of others. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 forbids housing discrimination based on race or other protected attributes.
In November 2017, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) dropped its investigation into the matter. However, HUD Secretary Ben Carson has decided to reopen the case, and he says that it was always the plan to continue looking into the matter. Time constraints were cited as the reason why the investigation originally ended. A statement from Facebook claimed that its ad policies didn’t allow discrimination to take place. The statement also said that discrimination went against the company’s values.
Among changes made include requiring advertisers to certify that they are in compliance with state law and Facebook’s anti-discrimination policy. According to a HUD spokesperson, new facts had emerged that were concerning to the department. Facebook has said that it will cooperate with the investigation, and the company has met with HUD numerous times. The Congressional Black Caucus claimed in a 2016 letter that this is a direct violation of the Fair Housing Act and that the issue should be rectified immediately.
Because of fair housing rules, landlords and homeowners are generally barred from not making housing available based on race, gender or because an individual has a child. Discriminatory acts may include not showing an apartment or not accepting an offer for a home. Failing to advertise a home or apartment’s availability based on race, gender or national origin might also be considered discriminatory. Victims of housing discrimination could file a lawsuit against the perpetrator.