Facebook Faces Suit for Enabling Discriminatory Housing Ads

(Bloomberg) -- Facebook Inc. was sued by civil rights groups led by the National Fair Housing Alliance claiming the social-media giant’s advertising platform allows landlords and real-estate brokers to exclude groups of people from receiving ads about housing based on characteristics such as family status or sex.

The suit, filed in Manhattan federal court on Tuesday, says the company creates lists that enable advertisers to stop certain categories of people from seeing housing ads. The plaintiffs said they created a fake realty firm, prepared dozens of ads for review and were provided with specific lists of groups they could exclude from receiving them, including families with children and the disabled.

"Facebook’s use and abuse of user data for discriminatory purposes needs to stop," National Fair Housing Alliance CEO Lisa Rice said in a statement. "It is already a challenge for women, families with children, people with disabilities and other under-served groups to find housing."

The groups want a court declaration that the practice violates the Fair Housing Act and New York City’s Human Rights Law. They also seek rulings blocking Facebook from engaging in the practice and forcing it to change its advertising platform. The company said in a statement that it will fight the lawsuit, which it said is without merit, and that there is "absolutely no place" for discrimination on Facebook.

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