HUD targets Facebook, claiming it engages in housing discrimination

NEW YORK — Federal regulators have served Facebook with a complaint accusing the company of allowing landlords and real estate brokers to engage in housing discrimination.

Justice Department lawyers disclosed the complaint by the Department of Housing and Urban Development on Friday in a court filing made in a lawsuit brought against Facebook by advocacy groups last spring.

The lawsuit says Facebook's advertising systems allow people placing real estate ads to exclude certain audiences from seeing them, like families with young children or disabled people.

"The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination," Anna María Farías, HUD's assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity, said in a press release. "When Facebook uses the vast amount of personal data it collects to help advertisers to discriminate, it's the same as slamming the door in someone's face."

Facebook makes nearly all its revenue from advertising.

In its filing Friday, the Justice Department took the side of the advocates, saying the company was enabling advertisers to violate housing laws. It said HUD served its administrative complaint Tuesday.

A Facebook spokesman told the Associated Press the company doesn't allow discrimination and has strengthened its systems to prevent misuse.