Economy

Facebook settles with rights groups on ad discrimination

Facebook settles with rights groups on ad discrimination

The company has also settled five lawsuits brought to it on the subject. Facebook does not address whether its current system is illegal or not in the settlement. The ads were often for housing, credit and employment. Facebook will also limit other targeting options so these ads don't exclude people on the basis of race, ethnicity and other legally protected categories in the US, including national origin and sexual orientation.

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Facebook and the plaintiffs - a group including the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Fair Housing Alliance and others - called the settlement "historic". "Millions of people view Facebook's ads each day", it reads.

Facebook has long faced criticism about its advertising platform and whether its systems enable discrimination.

Facebook is now being investigated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), a number of state attorneys general and the Department of Justice over its data-handling. Facebook has agreed to pay legal fees and costs, for a total of almost United States dollars 3 million.

The leading social network said housing, employment or credit ads will no longer be allowed to target by age, gender or zip code - a practice critics argued had led to discrimination. "Advertisers offering housing, employment and credit opportunities will have a much smaller set of targeting categories to use in their campaigns overall".

The company said Tuesday that it will also launch a tool for users to search and view all current housing ads running on its platforms in the US, regardless of who the ads are targeted to.

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ProPublica discovered this weak spot in 2016.

They will also be required to use a minimum geographic radius for location-based targeting to prevent the exclusion of certain communities.

Is today's promise to change any different?

The legal efforts followed a ProPublica investigation that found Facebook allowed advertisers to exclude African-Americans, Latinos, and Asian-Americans.

Facebook said it is taking the concerns seriously and that it has hired civil rights law firm Relman, Dane & Colfax to review its ads tools and help guard against misuse, as part of the civil rights audit.

In announcing its complaint, Anna María Farías, HUD's assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity, said in a statement, "The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination including those who might limit or deny housing options with a click of a mouse". That means that societal discrimination could still be part of the calculations - if more users within a single category register more interest in a certain thing, they'll logically be targeted as a result, which is already biased based on the sample.