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Behind HUD’s Housing Discrimination Charges Against Facebook

The charges levied by Ben Carson outline powerful Facebook advertising tools that enable allegedly sweeping violations of the Fair Housing Act.
Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, here seen testifying before Congress in April 2018, now faces a suit from the Department of Housing.
Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, here seen testifying before Congress in April 2018, now faces a suit from the Department of Housing.Jacquelyn Martin/AP

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced charges against Facebook for violating fair housing law. According to the charges, Facebook lets advertisers discriminate against users by screening who can see ads for housing on its marketplace platform for listings.

Facebook gives advertisers a wide array of tools to target potential buyers or renters and limit or block others from seeing ads on the marketplace. National lenders, real-estate agents, and landlords have the ability to target what Facebook describes as the “eligible audience”—the pool of users with specific characteristics who can see an ad—and an even more narrowly tailored “actual audience” of viewers who will see the ad.