The National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) filed a lawsuit against Facebook this week, arguing that the company allows real estate brokers and landlords violate the Fair Housing Act by preventing certain protected classes from seeing advertisements of housing for sale or rent.
“Facebook’s platform is the virtual equivalent of posting a for-rent sign that says 'No Families with Young Kids' or 'No Women', but it does so in an insidious and stealth manner so that people have no clue they have been excluded on the basis of family status or sex,’” Fred Freiberg, executive director of the Fair Housing Justice Center, said in a statement released by the NFHA. CityLab reports that Facebook replied to the allegations in a statement: "There is absolutely no place for discrimination on Facebook. We believe this lawsuit is without merit, and we will defend ourselves vigorously."
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act—a landmark civil rights legislation that sought to undo decades of state-sponsored segregation. A key mandate of the law—the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule—has still not been put into effect, and housing discrimination persists. A recent investigation by the Center for Investigative Reporting’s Reveal initiative found that people of color were still much more likely to be denied home loans than their white counterparts. The difference is that now, these practices are often harder to detect, or as in the case of Facebook—completely under the surface.