The Department of Justice has reached a settlement with Facebook owner Meta on charges it involved discriminatory advertising in violation of federal housing law.
The probe was prompted by a discrimination allegation filed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in 2019.
After the corporation opted to have the accusation heard in federal court, HUD sent the case to the DOJ.
The DOJ alleged the company targeted consumers with housing ads based on algorithms that used factors protected under the Fair Housing Act, such as race, national origin, and gender.
It was also claimed that Meta’s lookalike or special ad audience technology allowed marketers to target individuals based on protected characteristics.
The settlement, which is still subject to court approval, would mean Meta has to stop using that technology for housing advertising, which the government alleges is discriminatory based on protected characteristics.
By December, Facebook would be expected to build a new system for housing advertisements that the government must approve.
If the government approves the system, Meta will be subjected to frequent third-party audits to verify that it continues to meet the conditions.
If the new ad system does not adequately address the concerns, the settlement will be canceled and the case would be sent to federal court.
Under the settlement, the tech giant would be required to pay the maximum penalty under the Fair Housing Act of $115,054.
Kristen Clarke, DOJ assistant attorney general of the civil rights division said: “As technology rapidly evolves, companies like Meta have a responsibility to ensure their algorithmic tools are not used in a discriminatory manner.”
Meta described the accord as the outcome of “more than a year of collaboration with HUD to develop a novel use of machine learning technology that will work to ensure the age, gender and estimated race or ethnicity of a housing ad’s overall audience matches the age, gender and estimated race or ethnicity mix of the population eligible to see that ad.”
The company is currently limiting targeting possibilities for advertisers running housing advertisements, and its new approach would try to “make additional progress toward a more equitable distribution of ads through our ad delivery process.”
The firm will broaden this method to include ad targeting for employment and credit and that would discontinue the use of its unique ad audiences targeting tool for those categories.