The ubiquitous social network not only allows advertisers to target users by their interests or background, it also gives advertisers the ability to exclude specific groups it calls Ethnic Affinities. Ads that exclude people based on race, gender and other sensitive factors are prohibited by federal law in housing and employment.
…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. (Heres the ad itself.)
When we showed Facebooks 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.