Well, this is a surprise for a company that touts “diversity” as the reason why it is keeping Donald Trump supporter Peter Thiel on its board of directors.
In addition to allowing advertisers to target users based on location, interests and background, Facebook apparently lets advertisers choose which race to exclude.
The ad we purchased was targeted to Facebook members who were house hunting and excluded anyone with an “affinity” for African-American, Asian-American or Hispanic people. (Here’s the ad itself.)
When we showed Facebook’s racial exclusion options to a prominent civil rights lawyer John Relman, he gasped and said, “This is horrifying. This is massively illegal. This is about as blatant a violation of the federal Fair Housing Act as one can find.”
The Fair Housing Act of 1968 makes it illegal “to make, print, or publish, or cause to be made, printed, or published any notice, statement, or advertisement, with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.” Violators can face tens of thousands of dollars in fines.
Here’s the kicker: Although the advertising parameters allow you to exclude African-Americans, Asian-Americans or Hispanics, it does NOT allow you to filter out white people.
Expect Facebook to change this policy very quickly.
[UPDATE: November 4, 2016]
Business Insider is reporting that Facebook has been sued for the discriminating ad feature. A class action status is being sought for the suit.