Facebook still allows housing ads to discriminate by race

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2017/11/21/facebook-still-allows-housing.html


We need a serious review and analysis on what FB does with data, this is one of the most dangerous companies in the world.


The Zuck / Fbook are as culpable as tRump regressive regime.


thank FSM for ProPublica. They’re also one of the most dangerous orgs out there, but in the good way…


So when is someone going to launch a viable, open-source, ad-free social networking platform, with a reasonable user data scheme? I fucking hate email (well, it’s a love-hate relationship) but god, it would be even worse if it was a totally commercial product. What the fuck ever happened to open standards instead of shitty sketchy websites and apps? FFS…


Diaspora makes an honest attempt at being an open-source distributed Facebook equivalent. Also just to mention it: GNU Social has pretty well reimplemented Twitter and LastFM with federated services.
As typical of open source software, adoption is pretty limited amongst general consumers.


Was the Zuckster a hateful little weasel before he became a rich fuck or did the money corrupt him? What’s the point in being in being so devious and exclusive? He’s got enough money to buy god why does he need to be so ugly?

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I’ve never felt like my monthly donation to them was wasted, that’s for sure.


making an alternative available isn’t going to provide deliverance in the closed network wars, though. Facebook didn’t just make a platform available, they aggressively went after that top spot for their brand. People aren’t going to strike out amd seek an untrusted place in the wilderness to try to gather with friends an family. they need a true, assertive competitor.

Nonprofits generally suffer from a similar self promotion problem. they have a good idea, good apternative and noble aims, but fail to have a strayegic plan for growing their vision. Some org, or group needs to seize on all this negative press to aggressively promote an alternative. just talking about what’s wrong without offering the oppprtunitiy to move to an alternative is wheel spinning.

personally, I think Diaspora takes it one step too far with diatributed server model. The advantage of distributed networked ownership at the level is too esoteric a concern to overcome the inconvenience for a huge swath of users. A centralized nonprofit org that owns and runs a convenient facebook-like with a board a rock solid public-good commitment that focuses on just the worst, most obvious grossnesa of Facebook could flourish


I think you’re saying Diaspora won’t succeed because they lack marketing. A spool full of sugar to make the consumers think they’re consuming?

IMO a distributed system is more empowering but inherently less marketable. Common protocols that can be implemented by anyone sounds like infrastructure not the next big spectacle.


Wait - isn’t this as easy as any housing ad gets to tick off no demographics other than location?


According to Facebook, yes.

“We are going to turn off, actually prohibit, the use of ethnic affinity marketing for ads that we identify as offering housing, employment, and credit,” Erin Egan, Facebook’s vice president of US public policy, told USA Today.

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I suspect the main source of difficulty is “what is a housing ad?”

But, ya know, the point is that even if they manage to come up with a workable solution, what incentive do they have to maintain it in good working order? They respond to these issues only because of bad PR, which is fleeting.


Given the fact that ProPublica was able to place new ads with the exact same configuration as the ones they placed last year in their original reporting, it looks like Facebook didn’t even care enough about building their housing ad auto-detection algorithm to train or test it on known bad inputs. I’d put even money on them never actually having developed one in the first place. From the sound of it, the extent of their “fix” was to re-categorize “ethnic affinity” as “multicultural affinity” and classify it as a “behavior” rather than a demographic. Which is an incredible attempt at rules-lawyering, if you ask me.

Well, there certainly won’t be any risk of the fuzz coming after them…

However, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development — the agency responsible for enforcing fair housing laws — told us that it has closed an inquiry into Facebook’s advertising policies, reducing pressure on the company to address the issue. In a 2015 newspaper column, Ben Carson, now HUD secretary, criticized “government-engineered attempts to legislate racial equality” in housing.


Wow, I missed that part. And that is some real face palm worthy crap, right there.

But I don’t arrive at the same conclusion. Propublica never reported that their discriminatory ads were getting correctly flagged following the initial introduction of a fix. Basically, I’m saying that we need to acknowledge what a truly uncontrollable monstrosity Facebook has created, then start regulating it. If we see the source of the problem as simple incompetence (or malice), then we’ll never get to addressing how the systemic bias really comes about or what could prevent it.

It’s tricky, though. Take this argument too far, and you get the response that regulation can never work. I have some sympathy for the idea that organizations like Propublica are more effective than Congress ever could be, in this area. But eventually you have to get protections into law, if for no other reason than to keep good journalists from drinking themselves into an early grave.

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Don’t be good?


Facebook, yer fired.

I suspect that the main difficulty may actually be “ethnic affinity marketing”, and the fact that that’s a facebook option that exists.

I have never been prouder to be a giant dork who has never signed up with facebook.


Putting my SRE hat on: running FB is expensive and difficult. Diaspora’s distributed model is probably a big strength for a non-profit social network. At the very least, it keeps the operation from relying on just one org, and it forces designs that scale horizontally.