RISMedia's Real Estate Magazine

MAY 2019

Real Estate magazine is the industry's leading source for real estate news and information since 1980. Published monthly by RISMedia, Real Estate magazine offers timely and relevant real estate news to the industry's top brokers and agents.

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RISMedia's REAL ESTATE May 2019 89 American-born; non-Christian; inter- ested in accessibility; interested in Hispanic culture; or a wide variety of other interests that closely align with the Fair Housing Act's protect - ed classes." Earlier this year, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA)—and other organizations that made up the "Fair Housing Groups" in a recent lawsuit against Facebook, including the Fair Housing Council of Greater San An - tonio, Fair Housing Justice Center of New York and Housing Opportuni - ties Project for Excellence—settled the charges, with an agreement that Facebook would make sweeping changes to its advertising systems. In response, Facebook announced an overhaul of its advertising plat - form that will allegedly remove any targeting options that allow people and companies to discriminate against fair housing-protected class - es. The company has partnered with NFHA to create in-house training for Facebook's staff and leadership sur - rounding the fair housing laws; NFHA will also help ensure that Facebook's advertisers comply with federal housing and lending laws. "This settlement positively im - pacts all of Facebook's 210 million users in the U.S., since everyone is protected by our nation's fair hous - ing laws," said Lisa Rice, president and CEO of NFHA, in a statement at the time. "As the largest digitally- based advertising platform and a leader in tech, Facebook has an obligation to ensure that the data it collects on millions of people is not used against those same users in a harmful manner." According to NFHA, Facebook will be creating a separate advertising portal called "HEC portal" for any persons looking to advertise their housing-, employment- or credit- related products and services. Tar - geted advertising will be limited to prevent illegal discrimination, and housing advertisers will no longer be able to target consumers based on the protected classes, as well as zip codes. Facebook will also be re - structuring its "Lookalike Audience" feature and enforcing an anti-dis - crimination self-certification, which advertisers must agree to in order to place ads. "We're surprised by HUD's deci - sion, as we've been working with them to address their concerns and have taken significant steps to prevent ad discrimination," Face - book said in a statement after the HUD charges were filed. Facebook reports that negotiations with the housing agency over the issue had allegedly broken down because the agency wanted access to too much user information "without adequate safeguards," according to the New York Times. With the charge, HUD looks to ad - dress any outstanding fair housing violations regarding Facebook's ad - vertising practices, and also seeks to attain compensation for "the harm Facebook caused and contin - ues to cause." In response to HUD's decision to pursue the charge following the recent NFHA settlement and Facebook platform changes, Peter Romer-Friedman, counsel, Outten & Golden, who is not involved in the case, says, "We settled five cases against HUD last week (at press time) [on behalf of the Communica - tions Workers of America] and they were groundbreaking. At the same time, the HUD complaint identifies a range of issues that our settle - ments did not reform. Most signifi- cant is what we call the delivery al- gorithm, which determines who gets the advertisements. "We are going to continue to pur - sue cases that work toward algo- rithmic neutrality, or algorithms that take into account protected status. It's important that everyone has the same opportunity," he adds. "Every - one needs a job, housing and credit if they want to survive and thrive in our economy." "Under our settlement, Facebook has agreed to specifically study the potential for bias with respect to the Lookalike tool and its impact on delivering advertising," says Morgan Williams, NFHA's general counsel. "Facebook has expressly agreed to meet with NFHA over the next three years to discuss the findings and other potential modifications. HUD's charge raises specific concerns about these outstanding elements. We are hopeful that we can work with HUD, Facebook and civil rights partners to ensure that Facebook's platform operates in a manner that doesn't serve as a tool for discrimi - nation moving forward." The National Association of REAL - TORS® (NAR) shared the following statement with RISMedia: "Just last year, America recog - nized the 50 th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act. As efforts are continuously made to strengthen and support this landmark legisla - tion, NAR is committed to working with both public and private enti - ties to eliminate discrimination from our housing market," said NAR President John Smaby. "However, as various online tools and platforms continue to transform the real es - tate industry, our understanding of how this law is enforced and applied must evolve, as well. While NAR is reviewing the full scope of charges, REALTORS® will continue to support HUD's efforts to defend fair housing laws and ensure consumer protec - tions extend wherever real estate is marketed." RE Liz Dominguez is RISMedia's associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com.

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