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Facebook Announces Sweeping Changes for Apartment Marketers

May 2019

As many of you have seen in recent news coverage, Facebook has agreed to make sweeping changes to its platform after being accused of enabling discrimination in housing, employment and lending advertising.

In light of these recent developments, NAA highly suggests a review of advertising and marketing plans for digital platforms. Of utmost concern, HUD is scrutinizing the use of zip codes, user interests and demographics, which may have intended or unintended consequences on almost all of the federally protected classes under the Fair Housing Act (race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status and disability).

As part of an agreement in March to settle a civil rights claim brought by the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), Communications Workers of America (CWA), several regional fair housing organizations and individual consumers and job seekers, Facebook has agreed to:

  • Establish a separate advertising portal for creating housing, employment, and credit (“HEC”) ads on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger that will have limited targeting options, to prevent discrimination.
  • Create a page where Facebook users can search for and view all housing ads that have been placed by advertisers for the rental, sale or financing of housing or for real estate-related transactions (such as appraisals and insurance), regardless of whether users have received the housing ads on their News Feeds.
  • Require advertisers to certify that they are complying with Facebook’s policies prohibiting discrimination and anti-discrimination laws.
  • Provide educational materials and features to inform advertisers about its policies prohibiting discrimination and anti-discrimination laws.
  • Meet regularly with the plaintiffs and their counsel to report on and discuss the implementation of the terms of the settlements.
  • Permit the Plaintiffs to engage in testing of Facebook’s ad platform to ensure the reforms established under the settlements are implemented effectively.
  • Work with NFHA to develop a training program for Facebook’s employees on fair housing and fair lending laws.
  • Engage academics, researchers, civil society experts and civil rights/liberties and privacy advocates (including plaintiffs) to study the potential for unintended bias in algorithmic modeling used by social media platforms.

NFHA plans to provide training to the housing industry and consumers, funded in part by support from Facebook.

According to the Washington Post, HUD also is investigating other tech giants, such as Twitter and Google, based on similar allegations.

NAA is working with NFHA to learn more about their plans for enforcement, testing and training.