Facebook Ads and Fair Housing

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Facebook has been in the news quite a bit of late — more conspicuously, Mark Zuckerberg testifying before Congress about the Cambridge Analytica data breach, but equally important for the social media site’s role in discriminatory practices in Facebook ads using the data it collects from users.

“If you have difficulty coming up with a good reason for the way you use consumers’ data,
it should give you pause.” – Harvard Business Review, “Ads That Don’t Overstep,” by Leslie K. John, Tami Kim, and Kate Barasz

How does this affect you as a REALTOR®?

If you have a Facebook Business Page, you can advertise your listings, open houses, and real estate services via Facebook Ads. As a user, when we place an ad on our Page, we can choose, from a lengthy list of demographic choices, exactly which users will see our ads.

Where will this suit go from here? It’s difficult to say. Will Facebook clean up its act? They claim they already have, but civil rights groups are saying that the social media platform hasn’t done nearly enough and not all they say they have. Facebook, being a free social media platform, makes its money via advertising, so presumably, the more freedom its users and advertisers have, the more ads they can sell. As they are investigated and changed, their advertising practices may have to become more restrictive to eliminate how advertisers can place discriminatory ads. However, since the demographic choices that advertisers make happen on the “back-end” of the site — in other words, the discrimination is not readily apparent in the ads themselves but is in the choices the advertiser makes as to who sees the ads — the discrimination is less apparent than if the violations were out in the open.

Mark Zuckerberg has said that he’s open to testifying before Congress regarding the allegations about discrimination on Facebook…unfortunately, he’s already spending a few days with our legislators about other Facebook practices regarding data.












What should you do?

  • When you place an ad on your Facebook Business Page, be aware of the choices you are making as to whom you’re choosing to see your ad.
  • Stay away from choices that reflect or refer to the federally protected classes.
  • Avoid using language in ads that reflect or refer to the federally protected classes.
  • When in doubt, get a second opinion before posting — ask your broker or legal counsel to look at your ad copy and choices with you.