US government sues Facebook over discriminatory advertising practices
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg during the II CEO Summit of the Americas on the sidelines of the VII Summit of the Americas in Panama City in this April 10, 2015 file photo. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Files

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on Thursday filed a lawsuit against Facebook claiming that the company engages in advertising practices that facilitate housing discrimination based on racial, ethnic and religious differences.


In particular, HUD claims that Facebook's granular, targeted advertisements let housing sellers filter out demographic groups in a way that violates federal laws barring housing discrimination.

"Because of the way [Facebook] designed its advertising platform, ads for housing and housing-related services are shown to large audiences that are severely biased based on characteristics protected by the Act, such as audiences of tens of thousands of users that are nearly all men or nearly all women," the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit then documents some of the demographics filtering options that it says lets sellers illegally discriminate.

"[Facebook] has offered advertisers hundreds of thousands of attributes from which to choose, for example to exclude 'women in the workforce,' 'moms of grade school kids,' 'foreigners,' 'Puerto Rico Islanders,' or people interested in 'parenting,' 'accessibility,' 'service animal,' 'Hijab Fashion,' or 'Hispanic Culture,'" the suit claims.

Read the full complaint below.

HUD v Facebook by on Scribd

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