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Facebook and US sign deal to end discriminatory housing ads
Meta's Facebook will reportedly alter its algorithms to control discriminatory housing advertising

MENLO PARK, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 28: A pedestrian walks in front of a new logo and the name 'Meta' on the sign in front of Facebook headquarters on October 28, 2021 in Menlo Park, California.

Facebook and US sign deal to end ads showcasing discriminatory housing.
Source: New Delhi Times

Reports suggest that Facebook is set to alter its algorithm for the prevention of discriminatory housing advertising. Alongside, its parent company Meta would be subject to court oversight for the settlement of a lawsuit which the US Department of Justice brought this Tuesday.

US government officials stated in a release that it came to an agreement with the social media company to settle the lawsuit which was simultaneously filed in Manhattan federal court. Moreover, the release specified that this is the first case for the Justice Department that challenged the algorithmic discrimination under the Fair Housing Act.

From now on, the social media platform would be subject to approval and court oversight from the Justice Department for its system of ad targeting and delivery. US Attorney Damian Williams referred to the lawsuit as ‘groundbreaking,’ with Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke calling it ‘historic.’

A spokesperson from Facebook, Ashley Settle stated in an email that the company was developing a ‘novel machine learning method’ without their ads system. Mainly, this would alter the ‘way housing ads are delivered’ to US residents across varying demographic groups. She added that Meta would extend this methods to credit and employment in the US.

“We are excited to pioneer this effort,” Settle added in an email.

As specified in the settlement’s terms, Facebook would suspend the use of the advertising tool for its housing ads. According to the government, the ads employed a rather discriminatory algorithm to find users who ‘look like’ others on the basis of the characteristics which the Fair Housing Act protects. The social media platform must stop the use of the tool by December 31, which was once called ‘Lookalike Audience.’ Essentially, this depends on an algorithm that US stated discriminates on the grounds of sex, race and other aspects.

Additionally, Facebook would come up with a new system over the next six months to address such disparities which is a result of its use personalisation algorithms in delivery of these ads. The Justice Department stated if this proves to be inadequate, the settlement agreement can be subject to termination. According to the settlement, Meta must additionally pay a fine of a little more than $115,000.

Notably, the announcement comes following Facebook already agreeing in March 2019 to overhaul this system for the prevention of discrimination such ads. This was part of a legal settlement with a group which included the National Fair Housing Alliance, American Civil Liberties Union, and others.

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