On March 18, 2019 ECBAWM attorneys announced a $2,450,000 settlement for clients the National Fair Housing Alliance (“NFHA”), the Fair Housing Justice Center (“FHJC”), Housing Opportunities Project for Excellence, Inc. (“HOPE”), and the Fair Housing Council of Greater San Antonio (“FHCGSA”) to settle housing discrimination claims against Facebook, Inc. (“Facebook”). This agreement will implement far-reaching changes across Facebook’s advertising platform for housing, employment, and credit (“HEC”) advertising. In March 2018, ECBAWM filed suit in federal district court alleging that Facebook had created pre-populated lists making it possible for housing advertisers to “exclude” (in Facebook terminology) Facebook users from receiving rental, sales, or financing ads because of their race, national origin, sex, disability or family status.
The Facebook settlement sets a new benchmark for assuring that targeted advertising on social media complies with civil rights laws. Facebook will establish a separate advertising portal for creating HEC ads on Facebook and all Facebook-owned platforms, including Instagram and Messenger. On this new portal, HEC advertisers will not be able to target Facebook users (1) based on gender, age, or multi-cultural affinity; (2) by zip code as all HEC ads must have a minimum geographic radius of 15 miles from a specific address or from the center of a city; and (3) based on categories that describe or appear to relate to personal characteristics or classes protected under federal, state, and local fair housing laws, including, race, color, national origin, gender, age, religion, family status, disability, and sexual orientation.
In addition, Facebook will create a new page that will allow consumers to view all housing ads placed on the Facebook platform irrespective of whether the consumer was part of the advertisers’ targeted audience. NFHA will work with Facebook to develop an in-house fair housing training program for Facebook leadership and staff. Facebook will provide ECBAWM’s clients with $500,000 of in-kind advertising to promote fair housing on Facebook.
Finally, Facebook will pay $1.9 million in damages and attorneys’ fees, including to provide future training for housing advertisers on how to use social media in a manner consistent with fair housing laws and to create programming to promote fair housing using social media.
The Plaintiffs are represented by ECBAWM attorneys Diane L. Houk, Katherine Rosenfeld, and David Berman.
NFHA Press Release
“Facebook Halts Ad Targeting Cited in Bias Complaints,” New York Times
“Facebook agrees to overhaul targeted advertising system for job, housing and loan ads after discrimination complaints,” Washington Post
“Facebook Axes Age, Gender and Other Targeting for Some Sensitive Ads,” Wall Street Journal
“After Lawsuits, Facebook Announces Changes To Alleged Discriminatory Ad Targeting,” NPR