It's Official: Facebook Sued For Racial Discrimination Over Its Ad-Targeting Option Tool

Facebook has been sued in violation of the Fair Housing Act and the Article VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The class action lawsuit that the tech company faces is regarding its discriminatory ad-targeting option tool called Ethnic Affinities.

Facebook Is Faced With A Class Action Lawsuit

Karen Savage of New York, Victor Onuoha and Suzanne-Juliette Mobley of Louisiana filed a suit that accuses Facebook of causing racial discrimination with housing and employment ads. The Fair Housing Act actually prohibits housing ads that discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

Discrimination on disability and familial status were added in the 1988 amendment.

Pro Publica has recently discovered that Facebook's ad-target option tool lets advertisers control the people who can see their ads. This is done by clicking on the "Exclude People" button. Advertisers can choose to exclude their ads from being seen by any of the following 'Ethnic Affinity": African American, Asian American, Hispanic or Immigrant.

According to the USA Today, the suit noted that there's obviously no option to exclude people who are White or Caucasian Americans.

Facebook's Defense

The suit stated that it does not seek to end Facebook's advertising platform or completely get rid of the "Exclude People" function. The plaintiffs want to end the illegal proscribed uses of the said ad option tool.

According to Ars Technica, Facebook spokeswoman Genevieve Grdina said in a statement that the lawsuit is absolutely without merit. She added that multicultural marketing is a usual practice in the advertising industry. In fact, she pointed that it helps brands reach audiences with more relevant advertising.

Grdina also reiterated that they have policies that prohibit the use of their targeting options to discriminate.

This was previously mirrored by Facebook's Head of Multicultural Christian Martinez. He said in an official post that ad-targeting is beneficial to users. Martinez also mentioned that the tool should be a way to acknowledge and embrace diversity.

In Hot Waters

It has recently been reported that Facebook executives that include CEO Mark Zuckerberg are under investigation in Germany. The issue is Facebook's lack of action against online hate speech. It was prompted by a lawsuit filed a year ago by Can-jo Jun.

Last month, the company also blocked but ended up re-approving a breast cancer awareness ad. Facebook had admitted and apologized for the mistake.

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