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Facebook faces allegations of civil rights violations

Three women, one of them from New York, recently filed a lawsuit against Facebook. In this class-action claim, they accuse the defendant of civil rights violations by allowing its users to place discriminatory advertisements. The plaintiffs assert violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

An independent nonprofit investigative newsroom in New York purchased a Facebook advertisement. When setting up the ad, the user had the choice to exclude particular groups of people. The options available for exclusion were based on ethnicity and would prevent this advertisement for housing to be seen by certain minority groups. The lawsuit asserts that the quoted laws prohibit the housing and employment market from such discrimination.

It's been noted that previously, minorities would be shown away with silly excuses when they showed up to view a house or for a job interview. Now, programs like Facebook use the search criteria of users to identify their race, gender and preferences. That information determines which ads users will see. Advertisers can see the personal data of users and tailor their advertisements accordingly.

A claim such as this one is extremely complicated, considering that along with Facebook, every advertiser who chooses to exclude minorities could be added defendants. Also, who can join the class-action? Facebook users are not likely to know that they are not able to see certain ads. While it is unacceptable for internet users to be the victims of such discrimination, a seasoned New York attorney who is experienced in litigating cases that involve civil rights violations may be the best person to navigate such a lawsuit.

Source: norcalrecord.com, "Lawsuit alleges Facebook ads are discriminatory", Dee Thompson, Nov. 17, 2016

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