As if Facebook didn’t have enough problems already, the social media giant just got more bad news.
Ben Carson, Trump’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), slapped Facebook with an accusation of engaging in housing discrimination.
Anyone who has ever advertised on Facebook knows it offers the ability to create advertising campaigns that are very focused — at least they did prior to the recent changes.
For realtors or property owners, audiences could be narrowed down by both salary and housing costs.
In other words, an advertiser could prevent someone that made $50,000 per year from seeing ads for homes that cost $500,000 simply because they believed these individuals would not have the ability to pay for the home.
As an advertiser, it offered a higher success rate for a paid lead.
From the consumer point of view, however, it was discriminating, as there was an assumption being made that is not necessarily true.
Facebook recently removed its demographic settings, but the damage has already been done.
The problem for Facebook is the Fair Housing Act.
This legislation “prohibits housing discrimination, including those who might limit or deny housing options with a click of a house,” according to Anna Maria Farias, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.
She added: “When Facebook uses the vast amount of personal data it collects to help advertisers discriminate, it’s the same as slamming the door in someone’s face.”
These demographic settings are also what got Facebook in trouble during the 2016 campaign season.
The social media platform made information it gathered about its users’ political preferences available to advertisers.
Answering the Bell
It is not a coincidence that HUD came out with this announcement just after President Donald Trump accused social media platforms of silencing conservative voices.
The president only voiced what most of us have been saying since the election season.
Now, though, the administration has the law on their side.
If the administration is successful against Facebook, Google may be next.
While Facebook has removed many of those demographic options, Google still allows them when creating a new advertising campaign.
By attacking the collective conservative voice, they may have all opened up a Pandora’s Box they will wish they’d have left closed.