The Department of Housing and Urban Development has reopened an investigation into whether Facebook encouraged housing discrimination.
HUD Secretary Ben Carson disclosed the reopening of the investigation during a Senate panel where he was questioned by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii).
“We have actually reopened the Facebook case after having an opportunity to study it,” Carson told Schatz. When Schatz asked if it was the first time the reopening of the investigation was disclosed, Carson said “it may well be.”
Schatz cited a New York Times report in March which said Carson’s aides ordered the HUD’s enforcement office to halt its investigation into Facebook. An assistant secretary later terminated the investigation without an explanation. An investigation was opened in 2016 into how Facebook allowed advertisers to exclude certain ethnic groups from viewing ads for housing sales and rentals.
According to Carson, the investigation had been halted because the HUD did not have time to study some of the suits that were being pursued. After saying the case has been reopened, Carson said that the department was very concerned when it began uncovering the facts.
According to its advertising policy, Facebook prohibits advertisers from using its ads products to discriminate against people.
“Ads must not discriminate or encourage discrimination against people based on personal attributes such as race, ethnicity, color, national origin, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, family status, disability, medical or genetic condition,” the policy reads.
In March, the National Fair Housing Alliance and three of its member organizations filed a lawsuit against Facebook in federal court in New York City, alleging that Facebook’s advertising platform enables landlords and real estate brokers to exclude families with children, women, and other protected classes of people from receiving housing ads.