Meta to terminate ‘lookalike audience’ tool in US government lawsuit

Meta to terminate ‘lookalike audience’ tool in US government lawsuit
  • The US government stated id that the housing advertising tool is based on a discriminatory algorithm that categorizes people in terms of sex, race, and other characteristics.

American social media giant, Facebook will reportedly mend its housing advertising algorithm to prevent discriminatory ads on its platform. Meanwhile, its parent company, Meta, would be subject court oversight to resolve a lawsuit filed by the US Justice Department on Tuesday.

As per an official press release by the US government, Meta, previously known as Facebook, has agreed to settle the charge in Manhattan federal court, on the day it was filed.

The Justice Department stated that according to the lawsuit’s settlement terms, Facebook will stop the use of the discriminatory advertising algorithm which located users that ‘looked like’ other Facebook users based on characteristics that are protected under the Fair Housing Act.

The ‘Lookalike Audience’ tool purposedly uses an unjust algorithm that tracks users who ‘look like’ other users on the basis of their individualities, segregating them based on sex, race, and other criteria. The Justice Department has mandated Meta to stop using the tool by December 31st, 2022.

It also added that Facebook will develop a new system over the next 6 months to eliminate racial as well as other disparities caused by the implementation of its personalization algorithms developed in its housing ads delivery system.

This was the Justice Department’s first case questioning algorithmic discrimination under the Fair Housing Act. Facebook would now be subject to approval from the justice department in addition to the court oversight for its advertisement delivery as well as targeting system.

In an email, Facebook spokesperson, Ashley Settle, stated that the company is developing a novel machine learning-based method without its ads system to change the way housing related advertisements are delivered to users residing within the US, across numerous demographic groups.

Settle further added that the new method would also be extended to employment as well as credit-related ads for people residing in the US.

The news follows Facebook already agreeing in 2019 to completely overhaul the company’s ad-targeting system to effectively prevent discrimination in credit, housing, and employment advertisements as part of a settlement with National Fair Housing Alliance, American Civil Liberties Union and others.

According to the justice department, while the 2019 settlement reduced the availability of potentially discriminatory advertisement targeting options, it was unable to resolve other issues like the distribution of housing ads through machine-learning algorithms.

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Omkar Patwardhan

Omkar Patwardhan started his professional career in the hospitality industry. Having nurtured a deep-sated passion for words however, he found his way into content writing and now pens down articles for numerous websites, including News Origins, spanning the sectors of business, finance, and technology.