Facebook’s advertising practices have quietly been under fire from the federal government for several years after allegations arose that the system could be used to discriminate against users. This week, the social media giant announced it will change its algorithms to prevent these potentially discriminatory housing ads. The company will also open itself to court oversight in order to settle a lawsuit brought by the Department of Justice.
In 2019, the company agreed to overhaul its ad systems to settle a lawsuit with the American Civil Liberties Union and several other advocacy organizations. However, this change will go a step further to protect users from these ads.
“Parties who discriminate in the housing market, including those engaging in algorithmic bias, must be held accountable,” said Demetria McCain, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. “This type of behavior hurts us all.”
Meanwhile, assistant attorney general Kristen Clarke said “companies like Meta have a responsibility to ensure their algorithmic tools are not used in a discriminatory manner.”
Facebook has already had a tough year in the court of public opinion, so the company no doubt wanted to settle to avoid another controversy. But no matter how it reached its decision, it’s encouraging to see Facebook actually making substantive changes under pressure.
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