ASHA: Facebook Housing Discrimination Settlement May Have Impact on Seniors Housing

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A recent court settlement between several civil rights organizations and social media giant Facebook may have unintended consequences for seniors housing operators, according to the American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA), a D.C.-based advocacy group serving seniors housing industry.

Operators that use Facebook advertising to promote their communities should particularly focus on the results of the case.

“This settlement is the result of a complaint alleging Facebook’s online housing advertisements were discriminatory,” ASHA explained in a press release. “At issue is Facebook’s online advertising platform that allows marketers the ability to include or exclude certain people from receiving their ads using pre-populated list of characteristics developed by Facebook. 

“This allowed advertisers to exclude Facebook users from receiving ads based on their sex or age, or based on interests, behaviors, or demographics that allegedly relate to or are associated with race, national origin, sex, age, disability, or family status, otherwise protected classes within the Fair Housing Act.”

Advertisers that work with housing will now have a separate portal for advertising in Facebook, Facebook Messanger and Instagram (which Facebook owns). Operators will no longer be able to select audience based on certain categories, regardless of whether the marketers intend to specifically exclude people from the ads.

“ASHA will pursue clarification in this area if necessary,” the press release states. “It is clear this complaint and subsequent settlement was directed at addressing Facebook’s filtering capabilities to screen for protected classes of people such as by ethnicity, sex, disability and families with children. However, in doing so, it may have created an unintended consequence that limits the ability for seniors housing communities to target their communities to seniors who may desire the assistance and social benefits offered in senior living.”

Users advertising housing, until future notice, cannot target by gender, age and multicultural affinity, and the minimum geographic radius will be 15 miles from a specific address or city center. Zip code targeting will no longer be permitted.

  

“ASHA will be exploring the application of this new Facebook policy with its members and other interest groups to seek an interpretation that will not unduly hinder senior living providers from advertising in a manner that is consistent with their rights and obligations under the fair housing and licensure laws.”