Facebook settles suits over ad-targeting discrimination


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Facebook settled five lawsuits alleging that its advertising systems enabled discrimination in housing, credit and employment ads.

For the social network, that's one major legal problem down, several to go, including government investigations in the U.S. and Europe over its data and privacy practices.

As part of that settlement, Facebook says it will overhaul ad targeting for housing, credit and employment ads so they can't be used to discriminate on the basis of race and ethnicity, gender and other legally protected categories in the U.S., including national origin and sexual orientation. The social media company is also paying about $5 million to cover legal fees and other costs.

Facebook and the plaintiffs – a group including the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Fair Housing Alliance and others – called the settlement "historic." It took 18 months to hammer out. The company still faces an administrative complaint filed by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in August over the housing ads issue.

What's not yet clear is how well the safeguards will work. Facebook has been working to address a slew of social consequences related to its platform, with varying degrees of success. Last week, it scrambled to remove graphic video filmed by a gunman in the New Zealand mosque shootings, but the footage remained available for hours on its site and elsewhere on social media.

Earlier in March, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a new "privacy-focused vision" for the company to focus on messaging instead of more public sharing – but he stayed mum on overhauling Facebook's privacy practices in its core business.

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