Fred Underwood, NAR’s Director of Diversity and Community Outreach Programs, spoke on Saturday to a joint meeting of the Professional Standards Forum and the Professional Standards Committee. Fred’s presentation offered background and current status of two separate legal actions currently pending against Facebook, alleging fair housing violations. The National Fair Housing Alliance filed suit in March in New York City, and HUD filed a formal complaint in August. Both allege that Facebook’s targeted advertising options allow landlords, real estate sellers, and real estate professionals to discriminate on the basis of race, sex, religion, disability, and other protected classes.
So why do REALTORS® love advertising on Facebook so much? The same set of tools that has the potential to be used for illegal discrimination also makes it cost effective and easy for REALTORS® to more effectively tailor their ads to their desired audience, thereby not paying to overshoot the target audience. By contrast, old-school advertising media, such as billboards or broadcast radio and television required paying to reach huge numbers of consumers who were not intended targets of the advertising.
In addition to the fact that the pending legal actions against Facebook will determine which tools remain available to advertisers in the future, REALTORS® need to be aware of the implications of misusing targeted advertising, as doing so could not only mean legal trouble, but also subject REALTORS® to ethics complaints under the NAR Code of Ethics.