HUD settlement changes the way Meta delivers housing ads

HUD settlement changes the way Meta delivers housing ads

Meta’s responsible AI means advertisers will have a tougher time targeting certain interests and demographics for housing ads.

Meta has just announced a settlement with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that will change the way they deliver housing ads to people in the US. 

The new method is called the “variance reduction system” and is designed to make sure the audience that sees the housing ads more accurately reflects the eligible target market for that ad. 

In 2018 a lawsuit was filed against meta by the HUD alleging that Facebook violated the Fair Housing Act based on target options and delivery processes for housing ads. 

Meta and HUD collaboration. The announcement comes after a year-long collaboration between Meta and HUD to develop processes for machine learning technology to ensure the age, gender, and estimated race or ethnicity of a certain population seeing ads. 

Advertisers running housing ads currently have a limited number of targeting options to choose from while setting up campaigns – including age, gender, and zip codes. The new method builds on that same foundation in an effort to make progress toward a more equitable distribution of ads. 

Saying goodbye to Special Ad Audiences. In 2019, Facebook introduced Special Ad Audiences as an alternative to Lookalike audiences for housing, employment, and credit cards. That feature is going away as Meta looks to expand the field of fairness in machine learning. 

What Meta says. In their announcement, Vice President of Civil Rights and Deputy General Counsel Roy L. Austin Jr, said “We’re making this change in part to address feedback we’ve heard from civil rights groups, policymakers and regulators about how our ad system delivers certain categories of personalized ads, especially when it comes to fairness. So while HUD raised concerns about personalized housing ads specifically, we also plan to use this method for ads related to employment and credit. Discrimination in housing, employment and credit is a deep-rooted problem with a long history in the US, and we are committed to broadening opportunities for marginalized communities in these spaces and others.”

Read the announcement. You can read the full announcement here.

Why we care. Facebook has encountered many issues related to targeting in recent years. But Meta’s response to the lawsuit and its upcoming changes are a step in the right direction to preventing discrimination in housing. 

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