Already in trouble over the mishandling of user data during the 2016 presidential election, Facebook is now being slapped with a lawsuit that says its algorithm lets real estate advertisers discriminate.
Wittingly or unwittingly, the social network run by billionaire Mark Zuckerberg has been assisting landlords discriminate against women and other protected classes by letting landlords and real estate brokers exclude families with children, women and other minorities from receiving their housing ads, according to the suit.
The lawsuit was filed Tuesday by the National Fair Housing Alliance and three other nonprofit housing advocacy groups.
The Manhattan federal court filing deposes Facebook’s customizable advertising platform lets landlords violate the Fair Housing Act by letting landlords and brokers target ads to people based on race, handicaps, familial status and national origin.
“Facebook has abused its enormous power” despite past warnings that it has been breaking housing laws, the lawsuit claims.
The advocacy groups say they caught Facebook red-handed through a sting operation utilizing a fake real estate company called “Metro Boutique Rentals.”
Metro sought to place housing ads in New York, Washington D.C., Miami and San Antonio.
Facebook’s ad platform allowed the sham company to target their advertising to users who have “no kids” and exclude users based on interests in disabled military veterans, disabled parking, Telemundo and English as a second language, according to the suit.
Facebook allowed the purported discrimination despite being on notice since 2016 that its ad platform permitted landlords to screen for tenants based on race and other illegal criteria, according to the lawsuit.
Facebook has been under fire amid reports that a Trump campaign data consulting firm improperly accessed the private data of more than 50 million users in an effort to help Donald Trump win the 2016 presidential election.
Facebook has since suspended the firm, Cambridge Analytica, from accessing its data, but that hasn’t stopped the backlash from the public and politicians.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley has invited Zuckerberg to a hearing on data privacy on April 10th. The company is also experiencing questions from the Federal Trade Commission and more than three dozen state attorneys general.
The FTC investigation is searching to determine whether Facebook violated the terms of a 2011 consent decree with the watchdog that restricted it from sharing information that users’ asked to be kept private.
“This was a major breach of trust. I’m really sorry this happened. We have a basic responsibility to protect people’s data,” Zuckerberg told CNN in an effort to quell the growing outrage.