Meta changes Facebook tech to deal with DOJ to prevent discriminatory housing ads

Facebook agreed to stop using digital advertising tools and change its algorithms to resolve a lawsuit brought by the Justice Department for alleged violations of the Fair Housing Act.

The U.S. government reached a settlement with Facebook’s parent company Meta to resolve a lawsuit the government filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Justice Department officials said.

The lawsuit alleges that Meta’s housing ad system discriminates against people on Facebook based on race, religion, gender and disability.

“This settlement is historic and marks the first time Meta has agreed to terminate one of its algorithmic targeting tools and revise its housing ad serving algorithm in response to civil rights litigation,” Assistant Attorney General Kristin Clark said in a statement. The Ministry is committed to holding Meta and other tech companies accountable for the ways in which algorithms are misused to unlawfully harm marginalized communities.”

According to the Justice Department, Meta must pay a civil penalty of $115,054.

Meta’s vice president and deputy general counsel Roy L. Austin Jr. said the company has been working with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for more than a year to “develop new uses for machine learning technology” to ensure housing advertising ‘s overall audience is matched with a mix of people eligible to see the ad.

“While HUD specifically raised concerns about personalized housing advertising, we also plan to use this approach for employment and credit-related advertising,” Mr. Austin wrote on the company’s blog. “Discrimination in housing, employment and credit is a long-standing and ingrained problem in the United States, and we are committed to expanding opportunities for marginalized communities in these areas and beyond.”

Meta’s new system will be developed over the next six months to address allegations of racial and other disparities in ad delivery systems caused by personalization algorithms, according to the Justice Department.

“If the U.S. concludes that the new system adequately addresses the discriminatory placement of housing ads, then Meta will implement the system, which will be subject to DOJ approval and court oversight,” the Justice Department said Tuesday. If the new system is insufficient to address algorithmic discrimination in housing advertising, the settlement will be terminated.”

The Justice Department noted that the settlement brought Meta’s ad targeting and delivery systems under judicial oversight for the first time.

Congress is also considering expanding federal oversight of scrutinizing the algorithms of big tech companies. Last year, Sen. Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware; Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota; and Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio; said they were working on a bill that would require social media companies to disclose certain information to researchers and the public. some information.

Facebook isn’t the only social platform that has settled with the federal government over allegations involving its advertising system.DOJ and FTC order Twitter will pay a $150 million civil fine last month for data privacy violations over information Twitter collected and used by the company to send targeted ads.

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