Preaching Integration. Practicing Segregation.
November 22, 2017 7:33 AM   Subscribe

In February, after an investigation by ProPublica, Facebook announced it would be more diligent about prohibiting housing, employment and credit discrimination in ads on its platform. (In the United States, the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) prevents discrimination based on race, skin color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.) As a follow-up, ProPublica bought dozens of rental housing ads on Facebook last week, but asked that they not be shown to certain categories of users: African Americans, Muslims, mothers of high school kids, the blind and/or people interested in wheelchair ramps, Jews, people from Puerto Rico, expats from Argentina and Spanish speakers. All are groups protected by the FHA. Every single ad was approved within minutes.
posted by zarq (51 comments total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
 
Honestly, not a day goes by that I'm not grateful that I never joined Facebook.
posted by janey47 at 7:57 AM on November 22, 2017 [23 favorites]


I am confused about why racial discrimination is even an option when placing an ad for housing, since this is so clearly illegal. If I sell a bag on eBay, it doesn't offer me the "option" of listing a shoe size, and then flag my listing if I claim that my backpack fits a 12E. Surely you could just not offer racial discrimination as an option.

Honestly, Trump really is the end of the rule of law, because who in this country is going to enforce anything against a big corporation now, considering how little they would do it before.
posted by Frowner at 7:58 AM on November 22, 2017 [29 favorites]


Honestly, not a day goes by that I'm not grateful that I never joined Facebook.

its cute that you think that
posted by entropicamericana at 8:08 AM on November 22, 2017 [18 favorites]


NYT op-ed by Sandy Parakilas (operations manager on the platform team at Facebook in 2011 and 2012): We Can’t Trust Facebook to Regulate Itself:
I led Facebook’s efforts to fix privacy problems on its developer platform in advance of its 2012 initial public offering. What I saw from the inside was a company that prioritized data collection from its users over protecting them from abuse. As the world contemplates what to do about Facebook in the wake of its role in Russia’s election meddling, it must consider this history. Lawmakers shouldn’t allow Facebook to regulate itself. Because it won’t.
posted by jedicus at 8:12 AM on November 22, 2017 [34 favorites]


Facebook is a despicable platform.
posted by Catblack at 8:14 AM on November 22, 2017 [14 favorites]


Yeah, I'm not clear about how the ad creation interface works. It looks like there are built in categories where you can specify/select who you do not want to see the ad. Is this illegal? Or is the illegality actually related to who shows up on your doorstep? I need to do some legal research here ... (I'm not supporting Facebook, this makes me want to barf.)
posted by carter at 8:15 AM on November 22, 2017


Can someone explain why people would want to exclude expats from Argentina?

Fear of tango music keeping them up all night?
PTSD from the Falklands conflict?
Hatred of Diego Maradona?

I am generally puzzled by that one.
posted by Roentgen at 8:24 AM on November 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


It looks like there are built in categories where you can specify/select who you do not want to see the ad. Is this illegal?

With certain types of ads (like those for housing) yes this is illegal. (Quoting the ProPublica article from the FPP: "Housing, employment and credit are the three areas in which federal law prohibits discriminatory ads.“) Either it's illegal because it's an accurate description of who you're advertising to or because Facebook are lying to you, the advertiser, about who they're showing the ad to (I doubt Facebook are internally removing the restrictions before deployment to avoid violating the law, but for completeness we should allow for this possibility).
posted by Dysk at 8:25 AM on November 22, 2017 [7 favorites]


Can someone explain why people would want to exclude expats from Argentina?

Racism.
posted by Dysk at 8:25 AM on November 22, 2017 [30 favorites]


Ugh.

Guess I need to scope out what I'd want to pull off in terms of contact info etc before I pull that plug too.
posted by PMdixon at 8:27 AM on November 22, 2017


Can someone explain why people would want to exclude expats from Argentina?
I don't think that the issue is specifically that a lot of people want to exclude expats from Argentina. I think the issue is that it's illegal under US law to commit housing discrimination on the basis of national origin, but Facebook lets advertisers do it.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:45 AM on November 22, 2017 [25 favorites]


I don't think that the issue is specifically that a lot of people want to exclude expats from Argentina. I think the issue is that it's illegal under US law to commit housing discrimination on the basis of national origin, but Facebook lets advertisers do it

Ah. Thanks for that answer. So it's really a question of "let's see if I can exclude people from Country X".
posted by Roentgen at 8:53 AM on November 22, 2017


I'm 100% not supporting FB, but again, I think the legality of this might yet to be determined.

What is illegal in US (as far as I understand it):
- Posting a housing advert that specifies "X need not apply."
- Refusing qualified mortgage applications from specific ethnic groups.

And maybe discrimination based on name and appearance - "Sorry it's already been rented" etc.

In FB's case, the discriminatory language does not appear in the ad. Instead you use the ad tool, and FB's databases, to prevent the ad being sent to whatever ethnic groups you choose. If they can't see the ad, they won't apply.

It's a bit like (stretching the analogy to the analog world) posting a classified ad to rent a room, and then instructing the newspaper to only deliver the paper to white people. Of course this seems ridiculous, but in the digital world, it's easily possible.

An easier fix for FB might be to remove those ethnicity choices if the user is posting a housing ad. Then the ad gets sent to everyone.
posted by carter at 8:54 AM on November 22, 2017 [4 favorites]


Ah. Thanks for that answer. So it's really a question of "let's see if I can exclude people from Country X".

In greater context, the specific groups excluded from seeing and responding to that ad were "Expats (Puerto Rico), Expats (Guatemala), Expats (Mexico) and Expats (Argentina)" -- all Latinos.
posted by zarq at 8:58 AM on November 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


In FB's case, the discriminatory language does not appear in the ad. Instead you use the ad tool, and FB's databases, to prevent the ad being sent to whatever ethnic groups you choose. If they can't see the ad, they won't apply.

I'm looking at the Fair Housing Act now, and there does seem to be a letter/spirit split here. In short it's illegal to for a housing advertisement to state a preference or limitation based on the protected groups listed in the act. From a surface-level reading, it doesn't appear to be illegal to restrict who sees an ad using Facebook's tools. But I think an interesting case could be made in front of the right court that it's illegal under a slight expansion of what an ad is. If you say that a Facebook ad contains both data (the text of the ad) and metadata (including the targeting parameters), then it's possible for discrimination in the metadata to be prosecuted under the FHA.
posted by skymt at 9:24 AM on November 22, 2017 [24 favorites]


From a surface-level reading, it doesn't appear to be illegal to restrict who sees an ad using Facebook's tools.

Committing old crimes using new techniques doesn't make them any less criminal acts. If our legal system had to be taken that literally there's not a single law that couldn't be broken in spirit while escaping prosecution on similar grounds because the languages of human writing and speech aren't logically complete precise systems; all human language contains ambiguity that only social context, norms and conventions defined outside the language can resolve.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:32 AM on November 22, 2017 [12 favorites]


Or if the request to place the ad itself counted as an advertisement.
posted by Zalzidrax at 9:32 AM on November 22, 2017


> And maybe discrimination based on name and appearance - "Sorry it's already been rented" etc.

AKA Trump-style racial discrimination.
posted by glonous keming at 9:36 AM on November 22, 2017 [4 favorites]


Agreed, saulgoodman, although what makes them liable to sanction, is the legal system. So there has (needs) to be a legal judgment that will take these factors into account, and establish a precedent.
posted by carter at 9:38 AM on November 22, 2017 [2 favorites]


Political party affiliation is not protected, so you could still only advertise to Republicans and have the same effect.
posted by 445supermag at 9:40 AM on November 22, 2017 [2 favorites]


I'd be interested to hear from someone who is better versed in housing law than I am, but it looks to me like selective advertising is a recognized form of housing discrimination. I found a thing from HUD (which may be from the '80s, so possibly outdated) that warned against selectively putting up billboards to attract certain populations or advertising only in newspapers with particular readerships, and I found several things from realtor organizations that warned realtors against intentionally or unintentionally committing housing discrimination by selectively advertising.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:44 AM on November 22, 2017 [17 favorites]


Committing old crimes using new techniques doesn't make them any less criminal acts. If our legal system had to be taken that literally there's not a single law that couldn't be broken in spirit while escaping prosecution on similar grounds because the languages of human writing and speech aren't logically complete precise systems; all human language contains ambiguity that only social context, norms and conventions defined outside the language can resolve.

Yes! Totally agreed! But we also need to deal with the justice system we have, not the justice system we need. And the justice system we have is being reshaped one appointment at a time by a man who repeatedly violated the Fair Housing Act in both letter and spirit for decades. The more support we have from the literal letter of the law, the better.
posted by skymt at 9:50 AM on November 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


Political party affiliation is not protected, so you could still only advertise to Republicans and have the same effect.
posted by 445supermag at 11:40 AM on November 22


In fact, I do this (or, rather, its opposite). I often limit ads to people who are "liberal" and "extremely liberal" because people who are conservative are unlikely to be interested in my environmental science fiction anthology*. In my case, it's not that I care who reads my book, but that I want the most bang for my advertising buck. But it's the same set of options that I presume Politico looked at.
posted by joannemerriam at 10:16 AM on November 22, 2017 [2 favorites]


Discriminatory Housing Advertisements On-Line: Lessons from Craigslist [Prof. Rigel C. Oliveri, 2010]

This law review article outlines some of the legal issues, particularly the intersection between the FHA and the Communications Decency Act (sec. 230), which gives online platforms wide immunity for the things posted on their sites. One particular item of note is a ruling from the 9th Circuit in case involving Roommates.com:
The court found that the CDA did not provide immunity for Roommates under these circumstances. Specifically, Roommates was liable both for requiring users to answer questions about protected characteristics and for publishing the profiles containing this information. The CDA offers no protection in situations like this because, by actively soliciting and shaping the content on the website: “Roommate becomes much more than a passive transmitter of information provided by others; it becomes the developer, at least in part, of that information. And section 230 provides immunity only if the interactive computer service does not ‘creat[e] or develop[ ]’ the information ‘in whole or in part.’”

The court also found Roommates liable because its matching system operated to “steer users based on” their identified protected characteristics. Users were only sent listings from people with compatible preferences, and they were prevented from seeing listings for roommates that did not match their gender, sexual orientation, and familial status. The liability here stemmed not so much from the user-supplied content but from the fact that Roommates used this information to restrict access to listings based on people’s protected characteristics. But the court did find that the CDA shielded Roommates from liability for the discriminatory statements that users posted in the “Additional Comments” field. Like the ads posted to Craigslist, this portion of the user profile was entirely user-generated and free-form, and Roommates did not use it to match or screen the listings. [emphasis mine]


By "liable" here, they mean 'not immune from' -- the 9th circuit later held that Roommates.com's actions were not in violation of the FHA [pdf] (because they held it applies differently to people seeking roommates and people seeking renters for a non-shared dwelling).

Oliveri thinks that Facebook's actions are a violation of the FHA.
posted by melissasaurus at 10:19 AM on November 22, 2017 [13 favorites]


"If the FHA extends to shared living situations, it’s quite clear that what Roommate does amounts to a violation" --from the Roommates decision cited above (on similar facts).
posted by praemunire at 10:51 AM on November 22, 2017


Committing old crimes using new techniques doesn't make them any less criminal acts.

I guess this depends on your conception and view of "law" and "criminal acts", but from a positivist perspective—which is consistent with how corporations and many other legal actors actually operate—this is clearly not the case. There is often a grey area where technology outpaces the law and creates opportunities to do things without fear of sanction that would not fly in other contexts. Sometimes because there's a perceived difference in the technology-mediated act, or other times just because the cost of enforcement is higher and therefore there's less pressure against it. Whole business models have been built on this gap (e.g. Uber).

Intriguingly, there's ... weirdness going on with the regulations governing fair housing and the selective use of advertising. Apparently there was a Federal regulation (24 CFR 109.25) that gave specific guidelines for advertising, but it was withdrawn May 1, 1996; however some sources still reprint it, because it "still apparently represent[s] the position of HUD on advertising issues". But then there's also a pointer to this memo, which largely discusses circumstances under which HUD staff should not pursue an investigation based on the language of an advertisement (basically, publishers are only responsible if an ad is obviously discriminatory in a way that's "readily apparent to an ordinary reader", and giving every benefit of the doubt to the nature of the property underlying the ad and the entity placing it).

Anyway, that's all academic (and was presumably removed) because the meat of the regulation is in 24 CFR 100.500, which prohibits "discriminatory effect" generally, unless the effect happens as the result of action "necessary to achieve one or more substantial, legitimate, nondiscriminatory interests" and "Those interests could not be served by another practice that has a less discriminatory effect." It's a pretty high bar if you're the advertiser.

Presumably Facebook could well afford to have some lawyers brainstorm up some "substantial, legitimate, nondiscriminatory interests" concerning its advertising platform, if it needed to, but the question is how that would fare in administrative court, etc., which seems like it could be a tossup in the current regulatory environment. (Though I don't know if the current Administration is any friend of Facebook; they might well put their thumb on the other side.) It's probably easier and less costly for FB to change the software to make it more difficult to do obviously-problematic things with real estate ads than fight the matter in court, but I have no idea what Facebook's corporate stance is on such things; some companies might see it as worthwhile to fight tooth and nail in every case to avoid setting an example of how activists can cause them to change their business. (Similarly, other companies fight even trivially-settleable lawsuits with maximum, seemingly irrational commitment, to avoid creating the perception of being an easy target; someone once described this as the "blood in the water" doctrine.)

What will be interesting is if there are actions brought at the state level in places where Facebook has a clear legal presence (e.g. California). A quick spot check of a few states' fair housing laws shows that they tend to be more clear-cut than the Federal rule, and even Virginia's would seemingly make the type of targeted ads under discussion prohibited. I can only imagine that California's would be more stringent than VA's...
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:57 AM on November 22, 2017 [2 favorites]


carter: "It's a bit like (stretching the analogy to the analog world) posting a classified ad to rent a room, and then instructing the newspaper to only deliver the paper to white people. Of course this seems ridiculous, but in the digital world, it's easily possible."

On the flip side it's pretty easy to only advertise in KKK Monthly and not advertise in the African-American Times.

ArbitraryAndCapricious: "I found a thing from HUD (which may be from the '80s, so possibly outdated) that warned against selectively putting up billboards to attract certain populations or advertising only in newspapers with particular readerships"

How the heck could that work. That's essentially a mandate to advertise in every newspaper that serves a market if you advertise in any. If I put up a flyer on the bill board of my local church advertising a room for rent am I expected to paper the bill boards of every church the same distance from my property?
posted by Mitheral at 11:02 AM on November 22, 2017


Mitheral, the federal government used to not be idiots and they could spot patterns that were proxies for race discrimination.

Now they don't care, which... they are idiots.
posted by allthinky at 11:06 AM on November 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


How the heck could that work. That's essentially a mandate to advertise in every newspaper that serves a market if you advertise in any.

No, it's just a requirement not to be notably selective in advertising locations. If you only ever advertise your houses in the Richtown Gazette, there's not likely to be a problem. But if you run some ads in the RG, and others, for low-income houses on the other side of the tracks, in the Poordistrict Daily News, you may run into trouble.

They're not required to run ads everywhere, but if the demographic split between ad locations falls heavily on protected-status lines, a realtor would need a very firm set of explanations why they didn't think anyone in Poordistrict could afford their fancy houses, to prove that they weren't discriminating for reasons other than income.

Nobody trying to sell one house or even 2-5 properties is likely to run into problems for that. It's realtors who manage dozens or hundreds of properties, and take out ads in dozens of publications, who can be sued if they're using anything other than income to decide where to place the ads - and often, it's really apparent to anyone who looks into the details. Like, they'd advertise some houses in the poor white student districts, but not in the more-affluent Latino districts of a town.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 11:23 AM on November 22, 2017 [9 favorites]


Sorry if I missed it - has there been a public response by Facebook?
posted by Chrysostom at 11:55 AM on November 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


How does this differ from advertising for an apartment in, for example, the "Tri-State Area Chinese Times", published only in Mandarin?

Presumably the renters of such an apartment would be exposed to accusations of discrimination if they refused to show the apartment to non-Chinese who somehow found out about it, but is selecting a particular venue for publishing your classified ad considered to be prima facie evidence of illegal discrimination? (IANAL, etc)
posted by theorique at 1:01 PM on November 22, 2017


is selecting a particular venue for publishing your classified ad considered to be prima facie evidence of illegal discrimination?

I'd think no, almost certainly not. But advertising in six Chinese newspapers and no English ones might be evidence of intended discrimination.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 1:07 PM on November 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


Not to defend FaceBook but what probably happened is they created a bunch of categories that you could choose to advertise to, like Jews, Argentinian immigrants, etc., and then just used the same list for choosing to advertise not to.

It's still ham handed and has a discriminatory effect, but I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt they didn't purposefully set out to make it easier to discriminate against certain groups. It's probably more of a corollary of their lack of diversity that they didn't think this could be used negatively (see: everything Twitter has ever done).
posted by signal at 1:15 PM on November 22, 2017


I'm sure they didn't intend to allow illegal discrimination. They probably have rate differences based on how many people you're trying to reach - so advertisers will want to chose the smallest demographic group they think are interested.

Trouble is, they don't have a different setup for real estate, jobs, and credit; for those, they shouldn't allow choices based on protected categories and should limit them to other ones: political affiliation, location, education level, income, hobbies, etc. While some of those can still be found to be discriminatory (limiting a job by education level is sometimes a sign of racism), they'd be on much stronger ground than by setting up ads that people of color can't even see when logged in.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 1:19 PM on November 22, 2017 [3 favorites]


How does this differ from advertising for an apartment in, for example, the "Tri-State Area Chinese Times", published only in Mandarin?

Hmm not a lawyer etc. but I believe that you can run an ad in any language you want. However China is a very very large culturally heterogeneous country with many internal ethnicities, and if the ad said (in any language) "Only people from this region of China need apply" then it would be illegal.

What FB is doing is creating non-discriminatory ads and then posting them in (digital) rooms with a (digitally-enforced) "Whites Only" (etc.) sign on the door. It's in unexplored digital territory, which is why it is causing discussion.
posted by carter at 1:39 PM on November 22, 2017


It should be a straightforward case: if you hired someone to stand on street corners and hand out "Apartments Available" flyers - but only hand them to white people - there'd be no problem with finding that illegal, regardless of the phrasing. And a contractor that was willing to take on that job would be complicit in the illegal activity.

FB is doing the handing out part, and they're stating up front that they're willing to only hand the ads to select groups.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 1:48 PM on November 22, 2017 [6 favorites]


the specific groups excluded from seeing and responding to that ad were "Expats (Puerto Rico), Expats (Guatemala), Expats (Mexico) and Expats (Argentina)"
one of those things is not like the others... 'Expats (Puerto Rico)' is like saying 'Expats (District of Columbia)'
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:02 PM on November 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


I suppose I could call myself a California expat, or a Maryland expat. I was going to say that someone from Puerto Rico is probably Latino, while someone from Washington DC could be of any race or ethnicity, but DC is majority black, so they might face discrimination. I think they use different ways to exclude blacks from housing, though.

At least in employment, you can't make up job requirements that are really a proxy for discrimination. I could imagine that something similar might apply in housing law. Realtors do get in trouble for "steering" clients based on race or ethnicity.
posted by Anne Neville at 3:16 PM on November 22, 2017


I don't know if I've seen a general response, but Facebook's VP provided this statement to Engadget:
"This was a failure in our enforcement and we're disappointed that we fell short of our commitments. Earlier this year, we added additional safeguards to protect against the abuse of our multicultural affinity tools to facilitate discrimination in housing, credit and employment. The rental housing ads purchased by ProPublica should have but did not trigger the extra review and certifications we put in place due to a technical failure.

Our safeguards, including additional human reviewers and machine learning systems have successfully flagged millions of ads and their effectiveness has improved over time. Tens of thousands of advertisers have confirmed compliance with our tighter restrictions, including that they follow all applicable laws.

We don't want Facebook to be used for discrimination and will continue to strengthen our policies, hire more ad reviewers, and refine machine learning tools to help detect violations. Our systems continue to improve but we can do better. While we currently require compliance notifications of advertisers that seek to place ads for housing, employment, and credit opportunities, we will extend this requirement to ALL advertisers who choose to exclude some users from seeing their ads on Facebook to also confirm their compliance with our anti-discrimination policies – and the law."

So, kind of the basic mea-culpa response I'd expect, but, as Twitter has aptly demonstrated in their response to awfulness, actions speak louder than words, of course.
posted by Aleyn at 4:30 PM on November 22, 2017 [3 favorites]


We don't want Facebook to be used for discrimination and will continue to strengthen our policies, hire more ad reviewers, and refine machine learning tools

Or you could, y'know, just remove the option to select discriminatory criteria on those ads. Buying a housing ad? Great; you can't target by race, age, gender, family status, religion, national origin, etc., there are no options to select anything even vaguely connected to those topics.

The problem isn't, "those ads should have hit our review-by-person category." The problem is that the buyer was able to select "exclude moms" at all.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 4:45 PM on November 22, 2017 [6 favorites]


Okay, maybe it's not technically illegal to do this, but seriously - what kind of garbage people run a business this way? "We're going to rules-lawyer it so that you can still, if you work the system right, post discriminatory ads, because that's where the money lies" does not impress me with the benevolence and worth of Mark Zuckerberg.
posted by Frowner at 5:37 PM on November 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


My proposed solution.

Facebook should establish specific categories of ads for housing, credit, and employment. Advertisers in those categories are limited to non discriminatory groupings. Ads in those categories have a report button for discriminatory language, and the money paid may be forfeited if it's found to be discriminatory.

For all other ads:

Those who create ads that aren't in those categories warrant that their ad isn't one of the above categories on penalty of forfeiting the payment they made. Ads in those categories will have a symbol indicating such. Ads outside those categories will indicate they aren't, and have a report button.

A confirmed report of being an ad that should have been categorized above but wasn't would award the reporters some of the fee the bad advertisers paid and the ad stops showing, meaning the advertiser loses money and the reporter gains it, thus prompting people to look for such ads and report them, and the advertiser not to put ads in the wrong category.

Machine learning is used to indicate when an advertisement looks like it's for housing, credit, or employment despite not being in those categories, and given that some of the fee is kept by fb, and not given to the reporter and they can still sell the remaining ad space again after taking down the ad, there is a financial incentive to take down such ads for fb employees as well.
posted by gryftir at 5:52 PM on November 22, 2017 [2 favorites]


The statement given by Ami Vora (Facebook's VP of product management) to Engadget is a duplicate of the one she gave to ProPublica. It's linked in the article this post is based on.
posted by zarq at 5:55 PM on November 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


Also, the first link in this post is to the ProPublica article from February. It begins:
Imagine if, during the Jim Crow era, a newspaper offered advertisers the option of placing ads only in copies that went to white readers.

That’s basically what Facebook is doing nowadays.
It's discrimination. It may not be illegal to the letter of the law, but it's wrong. They have to be aware of that. They've had months to fix it, and haven't.
posted by zarq at 5:59 PM on November 22, 2017 [3 favorites]


zarq, I completely agree, it's Jim Crow for online platforms. Although I don't think FB and their product managers really care about that either way. I guess that they may start to give one if they get enough bad press over this, but who knows what they will do in response. They are principally an ad platform (not a social media platform as such) and this is the core business that they will prioritize.

While we currently require compliance notifications of advertisers that seek to place ads for housing, employment, and credit opportunities, we will extend this requirement to ALL advertisers who choose to exclude some users from seeing their ads on Facebook to also confirm their compliance with our anti-discrimination policies – and the law."

Having trouble parsing this, but, advertisers are required to self-certify that they are not being discriminatory, otherwise it's against TOS? I can see now how well that will improve things.
posted by carter at 6:14 PM on November 22, 2017 [2 favorites]


My proposed solution: shut down Facebook. Something else will rise to take its place, but it'll take a few years to be as dominant as FB is now. Use that time to enact stronger laws limiting this kind of company.
posted by signal at 5:16 AM on November 23, 2017 [2 favorites]


Yeah, the simple and obvious answer here is to disallow any targeting aside from (relatively) broad geography and maybe language, if the advertiser has created equivalent ads in multiple languages, on any housing, employment, or political ad.

Without safeguards, even a simple language target, a feature which has been included in web browsers and servers since 1997, can be abused, sadly.
posted by wierdo at 6:32 AM on November 23, 2017 [2 favorites]


Companies with a lot of information about people make weird predictive models out of all kinds of data, so it'd be really easy to just make a bunch of dogwhistle categories for redlining that couldn't be directly and explicitly tied to any protected groups.

That's why it'll never work to just try to prohibit specific behaviors. In a hypothetical fair and reasonable world, they'd have to explain exactly what data they're using (that is, what they're trying to predict and what information they're using to predict it) before being allowed to target an audience at all.
posted by ernielundquist at 8:57 AM on November 23, 2017 [2 favorites]


Yup. As in financial regulation, trying to fine-tune the rules is just an opportunity to create exploitable loopholes, both intentionally and not. The answer is to go blunt and clear cut. Geo targeting at the MSA-equivalent-scale level is probably OK. Not sure one should permit targeting beyond that.
posted by PMdixon at 9:08 AM on November 24, 2017 [2 favorites]


The solution here is for FB to allow advertisers to check those discriminatory boxes then report those advertisers to the FHA, right?
posted by sirshannon at 5:30 AM on November 27, 2017


That would also work, if the FHA is currently doing its job. I'd probably draw the line at the county level rather than MSA, but I can see how that could be too narrow in some instances, so I'm willing to be convinced otherwise.
posted by wierdo at 4:05 PM on November 27, 2017


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