Facebook and the Fair Housing Act
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced in March 2019 that it is charging Facebook with violating the Fair Housing Act by enabling housing discrimination through its advertising platform.
HUD alleges that Facebook unlawfully discriminates based on race, color, national origin, religion, familial status, sex and disability by restricting who can view housing-related ads on Facebook’s platforms and across the internet. Further, HUD claims Facebook mines extensive data about its users and then uses this data to determine which of its users view housing-related ads based, in part, on these protected characteristics.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing and in housing-related services, including online advertisements, based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability or familial status.
A United States Administrative Law Judge will hear HUD’s charge unless any party to the charge elects to have the case heard in federal district court. If a judge finds that discrimination has occurred, he may award damages for harm caused by the discrimination. The judge may also order injunctive relief and other equitable relief, as well as payment of attorney fees. In addition, the judge may impose fines to vindicate the public interest. If the matter is decided in federal court, the judge may also award punitive damages.
At RubinBrown, we specialize in the complex and highly regulated affordable housing industry. We perform audits of Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) partnerships to ensure they comply with HUD regulations. In addition, we can help you navigate the complexities of these types of regulations and laws to protect your reputation.