Facebook is popular for its social connectivity features and advertisements. However, recently Meta has agreed to revamp its social network’s advertising system after an extensive settlement with U.S. Justice Department.
The company was accused of letting landlords market their housing ads in discriminatory ways. The Trump administration brought the claim under the 2019 Fair Housing Act, and Meta had no choice but to settle with the claimants.
It is, in fact, the second time that the company had to settle while also agreeing to change the ad systems to prevent any form of discrimination. However, the settlement on Tuesday was more far-reaching than the first one as it requires Facebook to renovate its powerful in-built ad targeting tool called ‘Lookalike Audiences’.
The government stated that by letting advertisers target the ads through religion, race, gender, or other sensitive characteristics, the platform encouraged housing discrimination.
A new system on the horizon
As per the settlement, Facebook will create a new automated advertising system that will also guarantee the housing-related advertisements will reach a more equitable mix of the population.
The settlement also states the company will have to submit the new system to a third party for a comprehensive review. Facebook’s parent company Meta last year agreed to pay a $115,054 fine, the maximum penalty under the law.
Kristen Clarke, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said, “This settlement is historic, marking the first time that Meta has agreed to terminate one of its algorithmic targeting tools and modify its delivery algorithms for housing ads in response to a civil rights lawsuit.”
Roy Austin, Facebook Vice President of civil rights in a statement said that the company would be using the machine learning technology to deliver an equitable distribution of the housing ads regardless of the target audience set by the marketers by taking into account the gender, age, and the race of the user.
Austin states, “Discrimination in housing, employment and credit is a deep-rooted problem with a long history in the US, and we are committed to broadening opportunities for marginalized communities in these spaces and others.”