© Greg Nash
Facebook’s ad portal allows users to exclude certain races from their advertising, ProPublica reported Friday.
A screenshot taken after ProPublica purchased a housing ad on Facebook’s platform showed a prompt allowing users to “EXCLUDE people who match with at least ONE of the following.” The list below this text allows users to select from African-American, Asian-American or Hispanic.
Civil rights lawyer John Relman called the option “horrifying” and “massively illegal.”
“This is about as blatant a violation of the federal Fair Housing Act as one can find,” Relman told ProPublica.
The Fair Housing Act of 1968 made it illegal to publish a housing ad that indicates discrimination on the basis of “race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.”
Facebook says its policies bar discrimination in its advertisements.
“We take a strong stand against advertisers misusing our platform: our policies prohibit using our targeting options to discriminate, and they require compliance with the law,” a Facebook spokesperson said.
“We take prompt enforcement action when we determine that ads violate our policies.”
The spokesperson pointed to a Facebook’s targeting policy, which reads: “You must not use targeting options to discriminate against, harass, provoke, or disparage users or to engage in predatory advertising practices.”
The company said it reviews its ads to prevent discrimination and other policy violations.
Other major tech companies have been accused of allowing discrimination on their platforms in the past year.
In September, Airbnb said it would try to address the issue of black users being discriminated against on its website — a problem that spurred the Twitter hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack because of the volume of black users who had been discriminated against on the site.
Twitter has also had problems with abuse and discrimination on its website, which it has said it is trying to address.