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US Department Charges Facebook with Housing Ad Bias: Report

These changes were the result of settlement agreements with leading civil rights organisations and ongoing input from civil rights experts, said Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg

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This photo shows a Facebook app icon on a smartphone in New York. VOA

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on Thursday charged Facebook with housing discrimination, saying the social media giant encouraged and caused housing discrimination through ad targeting.

“Facebook is discriminating against people based upon who they are and where they live. Using a computer to limit a person’s housing choices can be just as discriminatory as slamming a door in someone’s face,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson said in a statement.

According to a report in The Verge, the charges were based on a complaint filed in August.

The department accused Facebook of allowing advertisers to exclude certain people from seeing ads, including parents, people born outside the US, non-Christians and those interested in Hispanic culture or accessibility matters.

A Facebook representative was quoted as saying they were surprised by HUD’s decision. “We’ve been working with them to address the concerns and have taken significant steps to prevent ads discrimination,” the spokesperson told The Verge.

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FILE – The Facebook app icon is shown on an iPhone in New York. VOA

In a blog post on March 19, Facebook announced new changes where anyone who wants to run such ads will no longer be allowed to target by age, gender or zip code.

These changes were the result of settlement agreements with leading civil rights organisations and ongoing input from civil rights experts, said Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.

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Last year, the US National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and other private parties, filed litigation against Facebook, saying it needs to build stronger protections against abuse.

“Our policies prohibit advertisers from using our tools to discriminate. We’ve removed thousands of categories from targeting related to protected classes such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and religion. But we can do better,” said Sandberg. (IANS)

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Political ad Spend on Facebook Picks up in April

The 2019 Lok Sabha election is being held in seven phases from April 11 to May 19

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FILE - The Facebook app icon is shown on an iPhone in New York. VOA

Political parties and their affiliates ramped up spending on social media ads ahead of the third phase of Lok Sabha elections, scheduled for Tuesday, show data released by Facebook Ad Library.

Indians spent around Rs 7 crore for running political ads on Facebook and Instagram in the first 20 days of April, while the amount spent on these platforms in February-March was about Rs 10 crore.

Facebook’s Ad Library, a searchable database, includes ads related to politics and issues of national importance run on Facebook or Instagram.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its affiliates continue to lead the ad spending on Facebook. The official BJP page took the top spot in the list of spenders on social media platforms. Of the Rs 1.3 crore that it spent on Facebook, Rs 44.32 lakh was spent during the week ending April 20.

The official Congress page on Facebook spent Rs 56.69 lakh during February-April 20.

However, supporters and affiliates of political parties account for most of the spending on the social media platforms.

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FILE – An Indian man surfs a Facebook page at an Internet cafe in New Delhi, India, Feb. 9, 2016. VOA

For example, the pro-BJP pages — Bharat Ke Mann Ki Baat (Rs 2.23 core), My First Vote For Modi (Rs 1.08 crore) and Nation with NaMo (Rs 1.20 crore) among others — spent much more than the Congress.

Similarly, the pro-Congress page “Bande Mein Hai Dum” spent Rs 2.59 lakh for drumming up support for the grand old party on Facebook and the Indian Youth Congress spent Rs 6.52 lakh on the social media platform.

Among the regional parties, the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), the YSR Congress and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) lead the spending table on Facebook.

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On Twitter, the accounts spending over $100 during the past week belonged to BJP MLA from Mandawa Narendra Kumar, Mumbai Congress unit chief Milind Deora, Congress leader and former Union Minister Subodh Kant Sahai, BJD President Naveen Patnaik and the TN Youth Party.

The 2019 Lok Sabha election is being held in seven phases from April 11 to May 19. (IANS)