For Immediate Release

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Timothy Karr, 201-533-8838

Free Press: HUD Action Against Facebook Just a First Step in Protecting Users’ Civil Rights

WASHINGTON - On Thursday, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that it would charge Facebook for violating the Fair Housing Act by “encouraging, enabling, and causing housing discrimination through the company’s advertising platform.”

The HUD announcement comes on the heels of a settlement of a case brought by the ACLU and the Communications Workers of America that alleged that Facebook was facilitating other civil-rights violations on the site by allowing advertisers to exclude people of specific genders and ages from seeing certain housing, employment and credit ads. As part of the settlement, Facebook said it would make changes to its advertising platform to prevent these kinds of civil-rights violations.

Free Press Policy Counsel Gaurav Laroia made the following statement:

“Facebook’s role in facilitating and encouraging discriminatory housing advertisements is a clear violation of the Fair Housing Act. HUD’s action today is commendable, if not overdue.

“The act is part of a group of civil-rights laws that protect against discrimination on the basis of protected characteristics like age, gender and race for opportunities in areas like education, housing and lending.

“Facebook should be condemned for facilitating these violations and perpetuating inequity and segregation in our society. But this problem isn’t limited to Facebook. Online advertisers and major tech companies have been getting away with practices that deny people their basic civil rights for far too long. The algorithms that power the microtargeting of ads on these sites have been used to deny people opportunities in education, housing, jobs and lending — all areas where our civil-rights laws were designed to prevent discrimination.

“Companies shouldn’t get rich by denying people their civil rights. The case against Facebook is an invitation to fundamentally reassess the business model that facilitates and encourages these practices across way too many online platforms.”

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Free Press is a national, nonpartisan organization working to reform the media. Through education, organizing and advocacy, we promote diverse and independent media ownership, strong public media, and universal access to communications. Learn more at www.freepress.net

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