Tech

Facebook still lets housing ads discriminate against Jews, minorities

Facebook still lets housing ads discriminate against Jews, minorities

A year after Facebook claimed real estate companies wouldn't be able to target users based on race, the social media giant is still allowing housing ads to reach exclusively white audiences in possible violation of federal statutes. One ad for an apartment rental that excluded African Americans, Asian Americans and Spanish-speaking Hispanic audiences was approved in under a minute.

"This was a failure in our enforcement and we're disappointed that we fell short of our commitments", Vora said in the statement. (Previously it was listed under "Demographics.") In other words, Facebook simply reframed the concept of race as something its user exhibit as a behavioral trait, which doesn't seem to have a meaningful distinction from what it used to describe. More black staffers, diversity could have have helped.

But the investigation found that the company, despite claims to update policies and increase enforcement of its rules, did very little to substantially alter how housing ads are placed on Facebook.

Facebook ads failed their own protocols.

'Earlier this year, we added additional safeguards to protect against the abuse of our multicultural affinity tools to facilitate discrimination in housing, credit and employment. "The rental housing ads purchased by ProPublica should have but did not trigger the extra review and certifications we put in place due to a technical failure". The law prohibits housing ads that "indicate any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin".

Facebook is increasingly a place where businesses are going to attract consumers. This applies to ads even if they are unrelated to housing, employment and financial services.

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In September, ProPublica discovered another flaw in Facebook's targeting that allowed advertisers to discover groups of people self-identified by anti-Semitic terms.

At the time Pro Publica - running a separate test - said it paid $30 to reach almost 2,300 people with anti-Semitic interests through three "promoted posts" on the self-service ad buying system.

If not denied outright, the ads should have at least triggered Facebook's "self-certify" protocol, which prompts users to assert that their ads are in compliance with anti-discrimination laws.

Further, according to ProPublica, the social network approved all but one of them within minutes, as their image above demonstrates.

Facebook, like most major tech companies, lacks diversity at all levels of the company, from its board of directors to the engineers who build the company's products. Still, advertisers are widely able to read between the lines, like when Universal Pictures marketed different Straight Outta Compton trailers past year for the "white" and the "African-American" ethnic affinities. ProPublica asked Facebook about the ads and the company blamed it on a "technical failure", rather than a systematic and inexcusable disinterest in adhering to United States law.


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